The Value of a Field Trip
A school bus pulls up in front of Cedar Circle Farm and Education Center and, one-by-one, 50 first-graders unload wearing brightly colored coats, full of anticipation, wonder, and excitement—they’re on a field trip out to the farm! And some of their teachers are just as excited because it can be a real challenge to make it happen: they need support from administration, they need to get permission slips signed, the field trip should support their curricular standards and must be within their grade’s budget, and, what is sometimes the most challenging step, they need to schedule the school bus.
During the month of October, Cedar Circle Farm welcomes over 15 schools, public and private, from preschool through 5th grade, to the farm for a Pumpkin Science Field Trip. For some, the biggest takeaway is the wagon ride and picking a pumpkin to bring home. For others, it is visiting a real farm, investigating how plants grow, the form and function of the plant parts, and the interaction of several different organisms and cycles that make it all happen—not just from reading it in a book or doing a worksheet, but in real life, so close they can reach out and touch it.
According to research by Marc Behrendt, field trips may achieve 5 goals:
- To provide hands-on experience
- To generate interest and motivation in a specific topic
- To add relevance to a specific topic and place
- To strengthen observation and perception skills
- To promote social-emotional learning and development.
Field trips cannot stand alone, but are best used to support existing classroom curricular standards, with the added benefits of promoting connection to place and engaging in the community.
I’ve had the privilege of leading several different types of field trips spanning many grades and subjects, and have gotten to talk to teachers about the experience. One teacher told me upon getting off the bus that she’d be working one-on-one with a student because of his behavioral needs. But when she saw the student’s engagement within the opening circle and searching the farm for carrots to pull, she stepped away—the student was in his element as he was engaged kinesthetically in a way that she had not seen in the classroom. Another teacher sent updates of a pumpkin that they brought back to the classroom and continued to “experiment on” while they learned about decomposition. One teacher based at an urban school felt that the field trip picked up where his knowledge and comfort with environmental education left off.
Field trips are a fun and effective way to support and enrich classroom curriculum, to create relevancy in a student’s world, and to allow them to create connections to the outside world. To get more information about our fall field trips, visit https://cedarcirclefarm.org/education/schoolprograms or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Behrendt, M. (2014) A review of research on school field trips and their value in education. International Journal of Environmental & Science Education, 9, 235-245. https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1031445.pdf
National Education Association https://www.neamb.com/work-life/how-field-trips-boost-students-lifelong-success