A field trip is an excursion or school tour taken by a group of students (led by teachers) to a place, where learning can take place outside a classroom environment. Students are generally excited about going on field trips as this means that they can get away from the tedium of classroom instruction. Teachers or adult supervisors tend to take a wary attitude as a field trip requires much preparation and the external environment also means that many factors are beyond one's control.
Before you start planning, reflect on your own past experience as a student when you went on a field trip. Think about the following questions.
- Was the field trip a local or overseas one?
- See if you can still recall the places you visited and the activities you did during the field trip.
- Did you prefer the individual or group activities? Why?
- Reflect on some of your personal experiences. What were the likes and dislikes?
- What were the reasons behind that?
- If you were to sum up that field trip experience in one sentence, what would it be?
- Alternatively, if you have never been on a field trip, try to put yourself in the shoes of your students or ask some of your friends (who have been on a field trip) to get some ideas on how to craft a meaningful and fruitful field trip.
Purpose of field trips
The main reason is to expand the students' learning through hands-on activities, as well as letting them see the real-world relevance of what they have been learning in class. Field trips can help to improve the students' understanding and add a sense of realism to their subject matter. Moreover, through field trip activities, students learn team work as they work with one another. The shared experience of a field trip also helps to build up the bonding among students, as well as rapport between the teacher and students. And of course, one fundamental reason for field trips is that they makes learning fun.
Things to note
1. Identify the rationale and objectives of the trip.
- Think about where to go. What is the purpose of going there? What kind of learning can take place there, that could not be done in the classroom?
- Should this field trip be conducted before or after the topic has been taught in class?
- Do research on the proposed place beforehand to find out the relevance and feasibility of conducting a field trip there.
2. Pre-trip logistics
Consider these factors.
- When should the field trip be conducted?
- How accessible is the place? If so, what is the transport arrangement?
- How safe is the place? Are there any possible hazards?
- What is the wet-weather contingency plan?
- What is the estimated cost for the field trip?
- Make meal arrangements if necessary.
- Ensure an appropriate supervisor-children ratio.
- Get the relevant contact numbers in case of emergencies.
It is necessary that you visit the place first to familiarise yourself with its main features, as well as to plan for any contingencies. Once you have a better idea of the place and its surrounding conditions, you can work out a draft programme schedule.
3. Lesson preparation
It is important that a field trip is more than just a guided recreational tour. To maximise the full potential of the trip, think through how the trip is related to what is being taught in the classroom.
- Design activities related to the topic that is being explored with the field trip.
- Explain to the students the objectives of the trip and the rationale behind the activities.
- Show the students photographs, video clips or articles related to the field trip site.
- Talk to the students before the trip to excite their interest as well as to engage their schema about the topic.
- Assign each group or student a role (i.e. research, observer, note-taker, etc) so that he or she can prepare before the trip itself.
- Brainstorm together with the students on their expectations for the trip, as well as go through the draft programme so that they are also prepared about what is going to happen during the trip.
4. Possible activities during the field trip
- Plan activities for students to work individually, in pairs or groups.
- Observe the sights and sounds at the field trip site.
- Gather and record relevant information from the site.
- Take photographs or draw sketches.
- Play games (e.g. scavenger hunt)
- Solve mysteries.
- At the end of the field trip, arrange for the students to fill up reflection worksheets so that they can review what they have learnt during the trip, as well as write down queries which can be clarified during the next lesson in class.
5. Possible post-trip activities
- Group presentations on their trip findings and observations
- Post-trip book
- Website creation (uploading of photos and information)
- Research report
- Photographs and sketches
6. Evaluating the field trip
After all the fun and laughter of the field trip has settled down, reflect yourself, together with the feedback from the students, upon the whole experience. This will be useful reference for future field trips.
- What was the educational value of the field trip?
- Did the students learn what they were supposed to learn during or after the trip?
- Was there enough time planned for the trip?
- Was there enough adult supervision?
- What were the highlights of the trip that the students particularly enjoyed?
- What were some things that could have been done differently to improve future field trips?
- What unexpected problems arose during the trip and how they could have been foreseen / avoided / resolved?
Planning a field trip may seem like a time-consuming process, which requires much patience by the teacher. However, seeing the outcome of such efforts (when students do learn something and also appreciate the efforts put in to make them understand the topic) makes it all worthwhile at the end.
After all these efforts, remember the most important part of the field trip - HAVE FUN!