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Weekly Challenge # 10 – A Student Designed Field Trip

November 3, 2013

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There has been a lot of talk about a new Toys R Us Commercial suggesting that a field trip to a forest is boring and unimpressive but a trip to the toy store is every kids dream. I have seen a lot of talk on Twitter suggesting ToysRUs pull the ad, apologize for it, or that people should boycott the store. I’ve even seen comments that perhaps somehow the store should make amends to the environmental education community.

I don’t think they need to do this at all.

In fact when I saw the commercial my thoughts were more focused on why the toy retailer seemed to think environmental education was boring. Did the marketer or ad agency that suggested this advertisement have a bad experience on a nature education field trip when they were younger? Do they have children who have come home from school and while sitting around the dinner table answered the age old question of parents, “What did you do at school today?” with a tirade about a boring field trip?

I wonder about the reaction if the kids in that commercial were to be told that they were going to the toy store but upon arrival the entire visit would be done as a walking lecture. What would their faces look like if upon arrival they were told to stay in line, stay as a group and please don’t pick anything up never mind play with it.

Students move at different speeds. We learn, reflect, design, and create to our own music and every experience means all the more if they are allowed to explore at least part of the experience on their own time. Of course in environmental and outdoor education there is a time and place for more solid control, (when near a scenic vista, near poison ivy or when something is about to be debriefed or wrapped up) but there also needs to be time for the students to explore, engage, and test their own boundaries.

A good environmental education or outdoor recreation program allows for some of this.

So, this week, my challenge to you is thus.

Ask your students about their favorite field trip. What made it special? Why does it resonate with you. If a kindergarten teacher and you have not been out on a formal field trip, well – if you read this blog, hopefully you’ve been out for informal ones that you can reflect on. Record the answers, (however you choose but as always, I would love for you to share the results with me here!) 

From this, have the students create their own “perfect” outdoor field trip. What do they think would be needed to make an engaging, enjoyable and educational experience? 

I have no doubt some students with imaginations will be suggesting trips to Africa or to the bottom of the ocean but without bending space or time how can we make nature study or outdoor play something that rivals a trip to the toy store.

Next step? Maybe convince the ToysRUs board to create seasonal commercials promoting outdoor exploration and encourage free play rather than encouraging screen time and less social interaction for I believe they are less the enemy and perhaps a potential ally in social interaction and free play. If the commercial mentioned had the kids running out of the store with sleds, snowman making kits, hockey equipment, skipping ropes, bikes, baseball bats or swings to hang in trees I’d be all for it.

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