One of the many perks of teaching internationally is the availability of some really cool opportunities for taking field trips. Field trips are a great learning tool because they allow for experiential learning and the opportunity to apply content knowledge and skills in a context outside the classroom. But in order for your students to get the most out of your trip, you need to be sure that you have clearly articulated the learning objectives you hope to achieve. Here are some practical ideas for aligning your field trip experience with your learning objectives. (Keep in mind when planning these activities that most of them require you to have visited the location in advance, and some may require a greater number of chaperones than others.)
Photo (or video) scavenger hunt: This is one of my favorite field trip activities because it is fun, versatile and engages students with prior learning. Divide your students into teams (3-5 people), ensuring each team has access to a digital camera. Give each team a list of items to find, terms to illustrate, or activities to perform based on the content of the unit you’ve been studying.Each team is responsible for taking a photograph (or video) that illustrates an understanding of each item on the list. (For example: after studying a unit on ancient Rome, we visited Roman ruins and students had to find the agora (marketplace) and then take a photograph illustrating what types of activities would have taken place there.) At the end of the allotted time, students come back together and share stories of what they discovered. When you return back to the classrooms, students can put together a slideshow, poster or other documentation to display their photographs (films) to the class.
Question scavenger hunt: If access to cameras is limited, this scavenger hunt variation asks students to explore the field trip location in order to answer a list of questions given to them in advance. The best types of questions are those that require the students to do more than just locate the answers on a plaque or display, as this requires a higher level of engagement and thinking. For example, rather than asking students to find the scientific name for the water lily, you might ask them to describe (or even draw) the ecosystem in which they discovered water lilies growing.
Curator for a Day: This activity can be done individually or in groups, depending upon the size of the class and the location of your field trip. Assign each student (or group) the responsibility of becoming an “expert” on one of the artifacts, positions, or locations you will see while on the field trip. Research can be done in advance, or on site (for example, if your field trip is to a museum, much of the information needed can be gleaned by a careful reading of plaques, etc.). Allow students a set amount of time to locate their artifact, position, or location, and plan a short (2-3 min) presentation about its significance. At the end of that time, bring the class together and tour each site, learning from the “experts” at each location.
Doing what you’ve learned: Some field trips lend themselves to actually putting learning into practice. Explain to students in advance what they can expect, and then let them put their learning into action. The key to this activity is to ensure that the students have made the connection between what they are doing and the learning objectives they are putting into practice. Some of my favorite “doing” field trips have included a trip to crusader castle where among other things students acted out a scene from a novel that took place in a similar setting, a visit to an archeological dig where students had the opportunity to actually practice the discipline they had just studied (and had the thrill of discovering ancient pottery shards), and a trip to play miniature golf where students tested out their knowledge of angles of reflection.
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