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Weekly Challenge for #EnviroEd # 62: Sugar Bush Field Trip Inquiry

February 18, 2015

britannia shack

As someone who facilitates field trips to the forest, the pond and beyond I used to start the lesson each day by asking the students, “Do you know why you are here today?” … Depending on the age of the students and the diligence of the classroom teacher students sometimes knew the program topic or perhaps just that they were about to explore nature in some way however this was not always the case.

Recently though I’ve approached it much differently. I have been telling the students what we are about to do in vaguer terms, (ie we will be exploring life in the pond) and then ask them – directly, “What would you like to know about life in the pond?”.

A field trip should not be a walking lecture, although too often this is what it becomes. No student, nor teacher will gain as much understanding or wisdom from a 3 dimensional PowerPoint as they walk through a factory or a zoo, with each stop predetermined.  Students will tune out without the chance to explore their own curiosity.

Locally, we are setting up for the Britannia Farm Sugar Bush and for over a year now have tried to make this half day field trip a season long inquiry into the arrival of spring.

We’ve created Symbaloo pages to allow students to explore the bush via math, language and even recipes and music before and after their visit. Via the hashtag #BritanniaFarm students can ask field centre instructors questions about the process and how to prepare for the trip. Staff is available for Skyping before or after visits to carry on the inquiry as well.

Parents can watch the Youtube video of the program to get an inkling of what to expect (and perhaps help in dressing their kids for the day as well!)

This has worked in many ways. Students come knowing our field centre staff already and are excited to meet us in person. They often come with their own powerful questions as well. I recall last year a 5-year-old asking me why it takes longer to make syrup in a pioneer cauldron over a modern evaporator if the fire was the same size. She had been thinking about this for some time leading up to the program day.

tripod

sappy doo

Field trips have unbelievable potential for learning and we as educators have an equally unbelievable opportunity to allow students to explore their own curiosity by asking them before they even step on that school bus for the trip;

“What are you hoping to learn?”

… and for those field trip providers … another challenge of sorts … how can you promote and encourage this inquiry?

Love to hear your thoughts.

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