For several years, our school has been intentionally increasing the number of field trips for students. During this time, teachers have been gathering data to determine whether these excursions are worth the time and expense. Our conclusion? Field trips are invaluable for Bayview students, for the following reasons:
- They serve as common comparative experiences. One cannot assume that all students have been on a holiday somewhere, travelled to some other place. Throughout the year, we use our group-background-knowledge-experiences to make connections and comparisons to texts.
- They can serve as catalysts for writing. Before going on a field trip, teachers may prime students to use their senses to gather information. Technology helps students with memory issues (they make videos, take pictures, voice record). We clearly see that field trips enhance written output.
- Field trips serve as team-building adventures. Invariably, something unusual/funny/unexpected will happen. These stories, told and retold, build our community and our sense of belonging.
- They serve, I discovered from open-ended written feedback, to “relax” students. I had assumed students would find field trips “invigorating.” They had a hard time articulating why exactly this is so. I am intrigued. Am I wrong in assuming that for many students, being in school is stressful?
- “Repeat” field trips appeared to connect students with a sense of place. “I wonder if that old eagle’s nest will still be there?” one student excitedly asked another on the bus. “And remember that tree with the hole in it? We should totally try to find it again!” This was another surprise for me—I thought students would find returning to the same spot boring.
Field trips are now embedded into the culture at Bayview. We know they work for our students on many levels. And although we often use field trips in conjunction with writing activities, we want to ensure we don’t send the subconscious message, “You, on your own, have nothing to share.” Field trips enhance, but certainly don’t replace, student voice.