More Than a Just Field Trip
Posted: Tuesday, January 7th, 2014
by Mary Whaley and Lacey Moore
Museums, zoos, aquariums, parks, even that local field or stream are engaging sites with which to deepen your science curriculum. Informal science education (ISE) centers and settings offer educators a variety of professional development (PD) and curriculum resources. From field sites for authentic science investigations to resource-rich environments with tools, equipment, live animals, science experts, and technology, these sites offer teachers what the classroom often cannot.
With the adoption of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), now more than ever, science-rich institutions can be a trusted resource to provide effective curriculum support. They often showcase the interconnected nature of science in practice and the importance of depth and application of scientific knowledge. (NGSS Appendix A, 2013) All across California, ISE centers are working to align their current curriculum and PD opportunities with NGSS and creating robust offerings to strengthen their implementation.
There are several benefits to visiting ISE centers. They lead to increased student engagement and increases to content knowledge in science, provide a way to re-emphasize science instruction in the classroom, and can promote teacher reflection on their practice through observation of a center’s educators (Kisiel, 2009). Additionally, visits to ISE centers offer learners opportunities for collaborative, student-centered learning and first-hand experience with real objects, phenomena, and animals (Bitgood, Serrell, & Thompson, 1994; Falk & Dierking, 1992; Hein, 1998).
How can teachers maximize this experience for themselves and their students?
Research suggests there are specific ways teachers can make the most of their visits to ISE centers including effective planning, development of explicit goals, and use of pre-/post-activities. This article highlights important reminders regarding these methods to help you integrate such visits into your curriculum
- Determine your budget. Some centers and locations offer free programs in addition to their fee-based ones. How much will transportation cost? Small grants are sometimes available to help, such as Target’s field trip grants.
- Timing is everything. Although it is tempting to wait until after testing to take a field trip, consider going earlier in the year to support a specific curriculum topic. A content-aligned trip deepens students’ learning experiences. Often, availability is greater and crowds are smaller in the fall.
- Visit the site first. A pre-visit allows you to determine exactly how the site does or doesn’t meet your specific needs. Some centers will allow teachers a free pre-visit.
- Plan repeated visits if possible. A field trip is a novel and exciting experience for students. Often this excitement can override the objectives. Multiple visits allow students to become familiar with the setting and focus on the learning objectives—especially for outdoor field investigations. Visiting field sites several times over the course of a unit, or even the year, provides a deeper connection to that setting and a greater understanding of objectives.
The proof is in the planning.
“A well-planned trip to a local playground can be more meaningful and educational than a poorly planned trip to a museum.” (Nabors, Edwards & Murray, 2009) Just as in the classroom, planning (or lack of) can make or break a trip to an ISE site. In a study examining elementary teacher motivations for science field trips, Kisiel (2005) describes how the learning outcome is more powerful if a teacher reflects on and identifies motivations for the field trip. The teacher is then more effective in using the informal setting to enhance instruction.
- Investigate available resources. Centers often provide resources such as curriculum, equipment or artifacts for pre-/post-visit use. Research what other opportunities are offered such as public shows, films, and interpretive talks.
- Establish and communicate learning objectives. Clearly explain the trip’s purpose and outcomes to students and chaperons. Decide which NGSS practices, disciplinary core ideas and cross-cutting concepts will be your focus. Make sure groups understand their expected assignments and roles.
- Develop prior knowledge. Organize pre-activities that will prepare students for your objectives. Provide opportunities for students to use new technology or field equipment so they become familiar with it.
- Inform chaperons ahead of time. The more prepared they are, the more support the chaperons will provide you and your students. If meeting in person isn’t possible, send a letter detailing your expectations with a schedule and map. Create chaperon groups ahead of time. Ask them to assist with activities. If possible, let them choose or suggest ways that they can be helpful in order to make them feel like an important resource.
- Familiarize students and chaperons with the site. Show a map of exhibits or trails. Identify key areas such as bathrooms, classrooms, and field site boundaries.
- Plan for the unexpected. What will you do if the weather changes or your program doesn’t start on time? Have filler activities ready for any unplanned down time.
During the visit
- Contact information. Be sure to have the site’s contact information in case of traffic or bus issues. Make sure chaperons have your and each other’s contact info. Provide student rosters for their groups.
- Take extra items with you such as maps, sunscreen, umbrellas, technology devices, etc. for those that may forget them.
- Have all medical and emergency contact information on-hand. Familiarize yourself with the site’s emergency procedures.
- Designate a meeting place and time.
- Often the most neglected part of the experience, meaningful follow-up experiences will help students make sense of their learning, apply it in new ways, and develop connections to other content.
- How will students synthesize their learning? How does this experience connect with prior or future units of study? Consider how you will analyze data collected, use claims and evidence, reflect on learning objectives and summarize the experience.
- How will students communicate their learning? Consider using technology as you develop activities and assignments that require students to organize and communicate what they took away from the trip.
- How will you reflect on the experience? Take time to make notes about what worked and what didn’t while the experience is fresh.
Making well-planned visits to ISE centers or field sites an integral part of your curriculum will lower your stress level and enrich your students, allowing everyone to have more fun.
We hope to see you at a local ISE site soon! Find out what’s happening in your area:
- Kisiel, J. (2005). Understanding elementary teacher motivations for science fieldtrips. Science Education, 89(6), 936-955.
- Kisiel, J. F. (2010). Exploring a school–aquarium collaboration: An intersection of communities of practice. Science Education, 94(1), 95-121.
- Nabors, M. L., Edwards, L. C., & Murray, R. K. (2009). Making the case for field trips: What research tells us and what site coordinators have to say. Education, 129(4), 661-667.
- NGSS Lead States. 2013. Next Generation Science Standards: For States, By States. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press
- Phillips, M., Finkelstein, D., & Wever‐Frerichs, S. (2007). School site to museum floor: How informal science institutions work with schools. International Journal of Science Education, 29(12), 1489-1507.
Mary Whaley is the Teacher Programs Manager at the Monterey Bay Aquarium and the Informal Science Education Director for CSTA.
Lacey Moore is the Senior Curriculum Specialist at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
Posted: Saturday, January 14th, 2017
The Council of Math/Science Educators of San Mateo County will be hosting the 41st annual STEM Conference this February 4, 2017 at the San Mateo County Office of Education. This STEM Conference is the place to get lots of new lessons and ideas to use in your classroom. There will be over twenty-five workshops and a variety of exhibitors that provide participants with a wide range of practical and realistic ideas and resources to use in their science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs from Pre-K to grade 12. With California’s adoption of the Common Core State Standards and the Next Generation Science Standards, we are dedicated to ensuring that we prepare our teachers to take on these educational policies.
Teachers, administrators, and parents are invited to explore the many exciting aspects of STEM education and learn about and discuss the latest news, information, and issues. This is also an opportunity to network with colleagues who can assist you in building your programs and meet new friends that share your interests and love of teaching. Register online today!
Posted: Friday, January 13th, 2017
Achieve has launched and is facilitating an EQuIP Peer Review Panel for Science–a group of expert reviewers who will evaluate the quality and alignment of lessons and units to the standards–in an effort to identify and shine a spotlight on emerging high-quality lesson and unit plans designed for the NGSS.
If you or your state, district, school, or organization has designed NGSS-aligned instructional materials, please consider submitting these in order to help provide educators across the country with various models and templates of high-quality lesson and unit plans. Learn More…
Posted: Friday, January 13th, 2017
An upcoming Perry Outreach Program on Saturday, April 22, 2017 at the Orthopaedic Institute for Children in Los Angeles, CA. The Perry Outreach Program is a free, one-day, hands-on experience for high school and college-aged women who are interested in pursuing careers in medicine and engineering. Students will hear from women leaders in these fields and try it for themselves by performing mock orthopaedic surgeries and biomechanics experiments. Learn More…
Posted: Friday, January 13th, 2017
by Jessica Sawko
January 2017 has proven to be a very busy month for science education policy and CA NGSS implementation activities. CSTA has been and will be there every step of the way, seeking and enacting all options to support high-quality science education and the successful implementation of CA NGSS.
California Department of Education/U.S. Department of Education Science Double-Testing Waiver Hearing
The year started with California Department of Education’s (CDE) hearing with the U.S. Department of Education conducted via WebEx on January 6, 2017. This hearing was the final step in California’s efforts to secure a waiver from the federal government in order to discontinue administration of the old CST and suspension of the reporting of student test scores on a science assessment for two years. As reported by EdSource, the U.S. Department of Education representative, Ann Whalen, a senior adviser to U.S. Secretary John King Jr., committed to making her final ruling “very shortly.” Deputy Superintendent Keric Ashley presented on behalf of CDE during the hearing and did an excellent job describing the broad-based support for this waiver in California, the rationale for the waiver, and California’s commitment to the successful implementation of a new high-quality science assessment. As previously reported, California is moving forward with its plans to administer a census pilot assessments this spring. The testing window is set to open on March 20, 2017. For more information visit New CA Science Test: What You Should Know.
Posted: Friday, January 13th, 2017
by Jessica Sawko
The early-bird registration rates for the 65th NSTA National Conference on Science Education in Los Angeles is just days away (ends Feb. 3). And as the early-registration deadline approaches excitement is building for what is anticipated to be the largest gathering of science educators (both California and nationwide) – with attendance expected to reach 10,000 or more. If you have never had the pleasure of attending the NSTA National Conference, I recommend you visit their website with tips for newcomers that describe the various components of the event. A conference preview is also available for download. Learn More…