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: Wednesday, October 12th, 2016
by Jessica Sawko
In June 2016 California submitted a waiver application to discontinue using the old CST (based on 1998 standards) and conduct two years of pilot and field tests (in spring 2017 and 2018, respectively) of the new science assessment designed to support our state’s current science standards (California Next Generation Science Standards (CA-NGSS) adopted in 2013). The waiver was requested because no student scores will be provided as a part of the pilot and field tests. The CDE received a response from the U.S. Department of Education (ED) on September 30, 2016, which provides the CDE the opportunity to resubmit a revised waiver request within 60 days. The CDE will be revising the waiver request and resubmitting as ED suggested.
At its October 2016 North/South Assessment meetings CDE confirmed that there will be no administration of the old CST in the spring of 2017. (An archive of the meeting is available at http://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/tg/ai/infomeeting.asp.) Learn More…
Posted: Thursday, September 22nd, 2016
by Carol Peterson
1) To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, Google has put together a collection of virtual tours combining 360-degree video, panoramic photos and expert narration. It’s called “The Hidden Worlds of the National Parks” and is accessible right from the browser. You can choose from one of five different locales, including the Kenai Fjords in Alaska and Bryce Canyon in Utah, and get a guided “tour” from a local park ranger. Each one has a few virtual vistas to explore, with documentary-style voiceovers and extra media hidden behind clickable thumbnails. Ideas are included for use in classrooms. https://www.engadget.com/2016/08/25/google-offers-360-degree-tours-of-us-national-parks/. Learn More…
Posted: Thursday, September 22nd, 2016
CSTA is pleased to announce the winners of the 2016 CSTA Awards for Distinguished Contributions, Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award, 2014 and 2015 PAEMST-Science recipients from California, and the 2016 California PAEMST Finalists. The following individuals and organizations will be honored during the 2016 California Science Education Conference on October 21- 23 in Palm Springs. This year’s group of awardees are truly outstanding. Please join us in congratulating them!
Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award
The Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award honors an individual who has made a significant contribution to science education in the state and who, through years of leadership and service, has truly made a positive impact on the quality of science teaching. This year’s recipient is John Keller, Ph.D. Dr. Keller is Associate Professor, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Co-Director, Center for Engineering, Science, and Mathematics Education, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. In her letter of recommendation, SDSU science education faculty and former CSTA board member Donna Ross wrote: “He brings people together who share the desire to make a difference in the development and implementation of programs for science teaching. Examples of these projects include the Math and Science Teaching Initiative (MSTI), Noyce Scholars Program, Western Regional Noyce Initiative, and the Science Teacher and Researcher (STAR) program.” Through his work, he has had a dramatic impact on science teacher education, both preservice and in-service, in California, the region, and the country. He developed and implemented the STEM Teacher and Researcher Program which aims to produce excellent K-12 STEM teachers by providing aspiring teachers with opportunities to do authentic research while helping them translate their research experience into classroom practice. SFSU faculty member Larry Horvath said it best in his letter:“John Keller exemplifies the best aspects of a scientist, science educator, and mentor. His contributions to science education in the state of California are varied, significant, and I am sure will continue well into the future.” Learn More…
Posted: Tuesday, September 20th, 2016
by Peter A’hearn
NGSS is a big shift. Teachers need to learn new content, figure out how this whole engineering thing relates to science, and develop new unit and lesson plans. How could NGSS possibly make life easier?
The idea that NGSS could make our lives easier came to me during the California State NGSS Rollout #1 Classroom Example lesson on chromatography. I have since done this lesson with high school chemistry students and it made me think back to having my own students do chromatography. I spent lots of time preparing to make sure the experiment went well and achieved the “correct” result. I pre-prepared the solutions and organized and prepped the materials. I re-wrote and re-wrote again the procedure so there was no way a kid could get it wrong. I spent 20 minutes before the lab modeling all of the steps in class, so there was no way to do it wrong. Except that it turns out there were many. Learn More…
Posted: Tuesday, September 20th, 2016
by Robert C. Victor. Twilight sky maps by Robert D. Miller. Graph of evening planet setting times by Dr. Jeffrey L. Hunt
Our evening twilight chart for September, depicting the sky about 40 minutes after sunset from SoCal, shows brilliant Venus remaining low, creeping from W to WSW and gaining a little altitude as the month progresses. Its close encounter within 2.5° N of Spica on Sept. 18 is best seen with binoculars to catch the star low in bright twilight. The brightest stars in the evening sky are golden Arcturus descending in the west, and blue-white Vega passing just north of overhead. Look for Altair and Deneb completing the Summer Triangle with Vega. The triangle of Mars-Saturn-Antares expands as Mars seems to hold nearly stationary in SSW as the month progresses, while Saturn and Antares slink off to the SW. Learn More…