September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

So You’re Going on a Field Trip. What Will the Students Accomplish?

Posted: Tuesday, January 7th, 2014

by Jeff Orlinsky

Field trips can be a great learning experience for everyone. Most museums, zoos, aquariums, or “parks” have lesson plans or activities. Some have developed thematic lessons for use on site, as well as in the classroom. These are tried and true lessons, almost foolproof, and may already fit your lesson plan completely. You may also choose to use a teacher-created lesson; these are our pride and joy. Most teachers have been to the field trip destination previously and developed a lesson that may be a better fit with what they’re doing in the classroom.

Regardless of the developer, such activities can vary from scavenger hunts; fill in the blanks, to collection of data. The observations in the field are brought back to the classroom for discussions and incorporated into the curriculum.

With the Next Generation Science Standards, teachers have the opportunity to make science teaching more meaningful and can tie in well with field trips. Recall that there are 8 science and engineering practices:

  • Asking questions (for science) and defining problems (for engineering)
  • Developing and using models
  • Planning and carrying out investigations
  • Analyzing and interpreting data
  • Using mathematics and computational thinking
  • Constructing explanations (for science) and designing solutions (for engineering)
  • Engaging in argument from evidence
  • Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information

Here are some ideas of how to combine these NGSS Practices with your field trips.

Visiting a zoo or an aquarium?

Visit Sportsman’s Paradise Online or simply Google search for any wild animal webcam or zoo-cam.

The goal of this inquiry lesson is for students to develop a scientific protocol to compare organisms from two or more different places and use current BYOD (Bring Your Own Devices). Once at the zoo or aquarium, the students will answer the question: are the animals we see on our field trip doing the same behaviors that we previously saw on the web cam? To prepare:

  • Have student watch animals on the web cam before your field trip.
  • Help students focus on a type of behavior they wish to compare.
  • Have the students brainstorm ways to collect the data once they are in the field.
  • While on the field trip, have the students make observations of the animals. If possible, have them form groups of two or three. One person views the webcam on their phone or tablet and makes observations while the others are observing the animals in the enclosure.
  • Upon the return from the field trip, debrief. Have the students discuss ways to improve their data collection and observations skills.
  • If you make this trip yearly, have the next field trip build on the work of the previous year’s data and observations.
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Heading to a Park?

The goal of this inquiry lesson is for students to compare their school grounds to the park you are visiting. This works great if you can identify the plants around your school campus. Ask the district’s groundskeepers for help.

  • Have the students develop and then use a protocol to count and measure the different types of plants and animals around campus. If you have the equipment, soil, air, and water tests provide more opportunities for students to develop laboratory skills.
  • Repeat the data collection process at the park you are visiting. It’s best to check with the park beforehand to make sure that you can sample and run experiments before doing this activity.
  • Upon your return, discuss the similarities and differences between the two locations.
  • The next time you go, use the previous year’s observations and data as the stepping stone to monitor changes over time.

On your way to the Museum?

Build a museum display. After your students have completed your lessons, have them pick a display and begin to critique the display in terms of building science literacy.

  • What is the purpose of the display?
  • What are the main scientific concepts that are being used in the display?
  • Does this display correct any misconceptions? Does it create misconceptions?

I hope these ideas have given you some ways to make your next field trip a different type of experience.

Written by Jeff Orlinsky

Jeff Orlinsky

Jeff Orlinsky teaches science at Warren High School and is a member of CSTA.

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Thriving in a Time of Change

Posted: Wednesday, September 13th, 2017

by Jill Grace

By the time this message is posted online, most schools across California will have been in session for at least a month (if not longer, and hat tip to that bunch!). Long enough to get a good sense of who the kids in your classroom are and to get into that groove and momentum of the daily flow of teaching. It’s also very likely that for many of you who weren’t a part of a large grant initiative or in a district that set wheels in motion sooner, this is the first year you will really try to shift instruction to align to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). I’m not going to lie to you, it’s a challenging year – change is hard. Change is even harder when there’s not a playbook to go by.  But as someone who has had the very great privilege of walking alongside teachers going through that change for the past two years and being able to glimpse at what this looks like for different demographics across that state, there are three things I hope you will hold on to. These are things I have come to learn will overshadow the challenge: a growth mindset will get you far, one is a very powerful number, and it’s about the kids. Learn More…

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Written by Jill Grace

Jill Grace

Jill Grace is a Regional Director for the K-12 Alliance and is President of CSTA.

If You Are Not Teaching Science Then You Are Not Teaching Common Core

Posted: Thursday, August 31st, 2017

by Peter A’Hearn 

“Science and Social Studies can be taught for the last half hour of the day on Fridays”

– Elementary school principal

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the Region 4 Director for CSTA.

Tools for Creating NGSS Standards Based Lessons

Posted: Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

by Elizabeth Cooke

Think back on your own experiences with learning science in school. Were you required to memorize disjointed facts without understanding the concepts?

Science Education Background

In the past, science education focused on rote memorization and learning disjointed ideas. Elementary and secondary students in today’s science classes are fortunate now that science instruction has shifted from students demonstrating what they know to students demonstrating how they are able to apply their knowledge. Science education that reflects the Next Generation Science Standards challenges students to conduct investigations. As students explore phenomena and discrepant events they engage in academic discourse guided by focus questions from their teachers or student generated questions of that arise from analyzing data and creating and revising models that explain natural phenomena. Learn More…

Written by Elizabeth Cooke

Elizabeth Cooke

Elizabeth Cooke teaches TK-5 science at Markham Elementary in the Oakland Unified School District, is an NGSS Early Implementer, and is CSTA’s Secretary.

News and Happenings in CSTA’s Region 1 – Fall 2017

Posted: Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

by Marian Murphy-Shaw

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This month I was fortunate enough to hear about some new topics to share with our entire region. Some of you may access the online or newsletter options, others may attend events in person that are nearer to you. Long time CSTA member and environmental science educator Mike Roa is well known to North Bay Area teachers for his volunteer work sharing events and resources. In this month’s Region 1 updates I am happy to make a few of the options Mike offers available to our region. Learn More…

Written by Marian Murphy-Shaw

Marian Murphy-Shaw

Marian Murphy-Shaw is the student services director at Siskiyou County Office of Education and is CSTA’s Region 1 Director and chair of CSTA’s Policy Committee.

Is This a First: Young Female Teens Propose California Water Conservation Legislation?

Posted: Monday, August 28th, 2017

Meet the La Habra Water Guardians from the Optics of their Teacher Moderator, Dr. P.

by Susan M. Pritchard, Ph.D.

You have just won the 2016 Lexus Eco Challenge as one of four First Place Winners in the Middle School Category across the nation! Now, what are you going to do … go to Disneyland? No, not for four of the six La Habra Water Guardians, Disneyland is not in their future at this time. Although I think they would love a trip to Disneyland, (are you listening Mickey Mouse?), at this moment they are focused big time on one major thing … celebrating the passage of their proposed legislation: Assembly Bill 1343 Go Low Flow Water Conservation Partnership Bill and now promoting the enactment of this legislation. Learn More…

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From time to time CSTA receives contributions from guest contributors. The opinions and views expressed by these contributors are not necessarily those of CSTA. By publishing these articles CSTA does not make any endorsements or statements of support of the author or their contribution, either explicit or implicit. All links to outside sources are subject to CSTA’s Disclaimer Policy: http://www.classroomscience.org/disclaimer.