What is in a Field Trip?

The highlight of a school year for many kids is a field trip. They are off with their classmates to explore, experience and break away from the daily classroom routine.

image by somenametoforget

Last year, about the same time, I wrote a blog post on the same topic Field trips-An Elementary School Favorite.

Unfortunately, it seems that many times a field trip is just allowing the kids to run wild, take a break, and in the best case scenario experience something different for a few hours. The best field trip was when the learning in the classroom can connect with these new experiences and then translate back to future connections in the school.

I still feel the same way about field trips. Too many times, the excursion has been done too many years in a row. It became “just one more thing” that is just done. The reason why it was incorporated into the first place has been lost.

I titled this blog post: What is in a Field Trip? The answer should be LEARNING! The reasons  should include:

  • an integral part of the broader curriculum
  • extending learning beyond the classroom
  • learning through hands on activities
  • taking learning off the page
  • building a learning community
  • connecting it back to learning in the classroom.

Ask yourself, if every field trip you are taking your students on is a learning opportunity that connects back to past/future lessons in the classroom in some way?

So how can you make a field trip a LEARNING trip? What do you want your students to get out of the experience? Take these skills and look for connections you can create, emphasize, incorporate, and highlight? What other subject areas can you connect to?

Credit for middle image “experience” by tombodor

Look for learning opportunities BEFORE and AFTER the field trip that challenge students to prepare what they will see, but also to pull from the experience that they had?

Don’t let the experience stand in isolation.


Here are some concrete activities that you can prepare. Yes, it will take prep time and creativity :). That is why good teaching is an ART FORM.

Gail Lovely gives the following advice:

I make field trips learning trips by framing the event in learning before and after – & give them something to do while there! [It]could be sketches, interviews, photos, puzzles to solve, scavenger hunts, something other than “just going”

classroomqueen contributes:

I used VoiceThread for documenting project [to] show student learning & reflection

Lucy Gray pointed me to the Apple Learning Interchange projects “FieldTrip 2.0

As students observe their world in creative ways, they can utilize technology to record their explorations. They publish what they have seen and learned so that others can collaborate with them and share experiences. This engaging and active processing encourages deeper understanding of the shared experience.
The quote that resonates with me and expresses my sentiments exactly is:
Activating “prior knowledge” and “pre-viewing” are teaching strategies used to engage students and greatly enhance learning.
Again, it is not about using technology for technology sake. It is about good teaching.
On the FieldTrip 2.0 site, you will find many examples for pre- and post-field trip activities such as:
  • Google Earth
  • Google Maps
  • K-W-L
  • Video Conferencing
During Trip
  • Geocaching
  • Digital and/or Video Photography
  • Scavenger Hunt
  • Audio Recordings
Post Activities
  • Create Digital Field Guides
  • Analyze Photos for Details
  • Create Narrated Slideshows, Movies, or Podcasts
  • Comic Strips

On Field trips-An Elementary School Favorite I wrote about using

  • the AlphaSmart Neo , a handy portable word processing keyboard, to allow students to document their field trip
  • Using cell phones to call in and record audio commentaries (ex. K7.net)
  • MP3 recorder to create live sound seeing tours

Here are some other ideas to make learning connections:

  • How about using Google Monster Milk Truck to allow students to “zoom” around the area you will be visiting?
  • Geocaching activities with an iPhone

I am working on a Google Earth Scavenger hunt as a pre-activity for our 3rd graders before they go on a bus tour around our city.  A blog post about creating and using Google Earth is coming up.

How have YOU made a field trip all about LEARNING? What kind of creative ways have you found to activate, experience and reflect with your students?