Sunday, June 1, 2014

The Perfect Field Trip: Everything in Order

May 2013. Time to take our annual trip to the San Diego Natural History Museum. Payment sent. Check. Chaperones scheduled and chaperone groups organized. Check. Cafeteria notified. Check. Museum scavenger hunt printed. Check.
We were ready. Our sixth-grade teachers could all rest assured that everything was in order for the big day - because as we all know, while nice diversions from the humdrum-daily-school-routines, field trips can be sources of anxiety for teachers. However, we had it all: precision, efficiency, and control.
            But had we planned everything? If so, why were my students caught throwing paper airplanes made from museum maps off the second floor balcony on the day of our visit?
What had I done wrong? We had arranged the logistics, but had we really thought about the learning objectives? We had ensured that the students would at the very least look at the exhibits, as they scurried around looking for the scavenger hunt answers. And the exhibits complemented the science curriculum, right? But what did the trip mean to the students? Did they feel compelled to explore? What did they take home? Would they be excited to learn more? I knew something was missing.
            Consequently, when Kim Douillard at the San Diego Area Writing Project emailed me to find out if I’d be interested in participating in Intersections, a collaborative project with the San Diego Area Writing Project, the San Diego Natural History Museum and the Reuben H. Fleet Science Museum, I couldn’t have responded more quickly or with more enthusiasm. This was a chance to “reimagine the field trip experience.” We would take a close look at students’ field trip experiences and develop strategies for best practices with dedicated professionals. I would have the opportunity to work with San Diego area teachers and museum staff educators on five different Saturdays over a six-month period.
In November, we began our journey of exploration and study.

Next up -  Just what do we want our students to take away?


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