Field Trips Help Make Learning Last

I don’t remember much about my elementary school experience. But I do remember our class field trips. Field trips are more than a “vacation” from school. Coupled with meaningful and relevant lesson objectives, a field experience can engage students in learning and leave a lasting imprint.

One year, through a summer research stipend, a fellow geology professor and I developed an archeological field trip for our pre-service teacher education majors. We designed a day-long archaeological dig at a ghost town, a turn-of-the century railroad town that, by the end of the 1930s, was completely gone. To add a cultural aspect, we teamed up with some private school elementary and secondary students from a nearby Hutterite colony.

Hutterites share religious roots and traditions with the Mennonites and Amish. They live in colonies throughout the western states and Canada. Hutterites also speak a dialect of German as their primary language. 

We secured permission to conduct the dig on the privately-owned land. Then, using our local assessor’s office, we located a plat of the ghost town. The plat indicated streets, lots and businesses that existed in the early 20th century. Before actually digging for artifacts, each student was trained in the methods of a dig including: constructing a grid layout; recording; shoveling and screening. 

To help locate artifacts from the ghost town, our geology instructor guided us to possible “hot spots” with ground-penetrating radar. Throughout the entire process, each university student was paired with a Hutterite child. Many artifacts were recovered including an old license plate, crockery, glass medicine bottles and a horse harness. But the real discovery for our future teacher graduates was learning ways to communicate and mentor younger and culturally diverse students.

The collaborative archaeological dig was a resounding success. Our local newspaper reported the partnered project in a front-page story. End-of-course feedback unanimously lauded the experience and its educational value to both the university students and Hutterite students. Not only did they get to conduct an actual archaeological dig, but all of the students experienced what it is like to collaborate with those of another culture to accomplish a common goal. Through the experience, both groups learned about the other. 

The experience was successful because it engaged most of Gardner’s multiple intelligences, including the naturalist, bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal, verbal-linguistic, intrapersonal, visual-spatial and logical-mathematical. Teachers who routinely integrate the multiple intelligences into their lessons and assessments will engage the different types of learners, making the learning process successful for all.

There is no question that every field trip or experience requires more time and coordination, especially on the part of the instructor. But the benefits far outweigh the challenges. Students gain meaningful, hands-on experiences directly tied to course objectives and content standards. The best part of a well-organized field experience is that students will long remember the “what” and “why” even after the class has ended.

Neville is an associate professor of education in South Dakota.


Field trips are the best way

Submitted by Amy on 3 November 2011 - 12:31pm.

Field trips are the best way to help children learn information. When a child learns about something in a classroom it is sometimes hard for them to understand what it really is. If they see it they have that picture and they can remember what it was about. When I was in elementary school may class and I went on many field trips and as we graduated high school and we found pictures of those field trips from years ago, we remembered where we went, who we went with, and what happened while we were there. In middle school we went on a field trip to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. We learned so much about Ellis Island that day that we could not have learned from a book or a video. The best part of the trip was actually the next day when we had to take the eighth grade standardized test for social studies and the essay was on immigration. In my essay I wrote about Ellis Island and the information I used was richer because it was my firsthand knowledge. I think that more field trips should be incorporated into education. Children would have more of a real world experience while they are in school because there are some things children can learn in a classroom. Field trips also provide children to be with their teachers in a different environment. Teachers are generally more relaxed while they are on a field trip and the children will have more fun with them and may respect them more when they get back to the classroom. Some children do not think that teachers are capable of having fun but on a field trip they can see that their teachers are fun.

i related to this article

Submitted by ECS on 2 November 2011 - 2:22pm.

i related to this article alot, i loved field trips because i became a visual learner, i liked to get involved instead of sitting in a classroom all day. i also feel that field trips are helpful because it makes you remember that trip. i honestly remember all my field trips all the way back to kindergarten. I remember going to see our penpals that lived in the city, i remember going to Boston quite a few times, a pumpkin patch and so on.

I loved this article. I am a

Submitted by Alison on 2 November 2011 - 10:52am.

I loved this article. I am a visual learner. Field Trips were the best way I could learn. I remember every single field trp that I went on; especially Howes Caverns. I was able to see all the different kinds of rocks and minerals. It helped me learn about the rocks and minerals more than sitting in a classroom and listening to a teach talk did. It is so sad to see that elementary schools are cutting out field trips. Children cannot learn when all they do is sit in the classroom and listen to the teacher lecture. Children need to experience things for themselves.

The cool thing about this

Submitted by Sierra on 1 November 2011 - 3:39pm.

The cool thing about this article is that I can actually relate. I remember taking some field trips from middle school and some from high school as well. The most memorable experience I had that relates to this article was at the start of sixth grade. My school was involved in something called nature’s classroom. What this program included, was schools from all over the northeast, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New York and even New Hampshire going to a designated camp for a week in Massachusetts. The kids that came were all the same age but were very different because of where they lived. You were able to stay in a room of six people and the building you were in was for all the people from your own school. However, one person from each room in every building would get up during the week and help set up or clean for breakfast, set up and clean for lunch and then also dinner. So during the day you had one person from your room helping with breakfast, lunch or dinner. Because you would only have a few people from your own school and a lot from other schools, you were encouraged to meet other students. The other students that worked the shifts with you became your group. When we had group time which included hikes and learning about plants and the history of our land, you would go with this group. One of the most memorable experiences we did was the Underground Railroad. We pretended that we were the ones that people were looking for and we had to hide in pretend houses that were close to one another. The teachers would come in to the houses and try finding us, and if you were caught they would take you away for the rest of the night. We did this when it was dark out and I actually have to remember feeling scared. Afterwards, we had to look back on the activity and discuss it. It was a very memorable experience and we learned a lot and we met tons of new people. I don’t think I will ever forget being a part of nature’s classroom.