Thursday, 4 September 2014

Field Study: Bringing to Life their Learning

We all remember our field studies in our formal education.  I remember my first Field Study to a Forest right behind my elementary school.  We were looking for what types of things lived in the forest.  I remember how excited we were to make connections to what we were learning in class and actually see these crawly creatures, plants and animals (small squirrels/birds) in the environment.  We could feel, sense, smell, touch and taste the environment which led to an even greater understanding of what we learned in class.  Sadly, many school districts are restricting the amount and types of field studies that can take place.

Planning a field study is an arduous task that involves lots of steps with an attention to detail.  From contacting places, to creating forms, to getting approval from the district, to your admin and then finally from parents- there is a lot that goes into the process.  Tack on transportation and finance issues and more importantly safety and prevention, and you will see that many teachers choose not  go on field studies because of work and responsibility that go along with it.  Nonetheless, are we removing an integral part of our students learning?  I would argue "Yes"!

No matter how much technology allows students to students to interact on a global level, they still need to go out into the community and learn about the physical world around them.  Field studies bridge the gap between theoretical knowledge and practical knowledge allowing the students to experience and engage in new levels of learning that maximize their understanding.  From Kindergarten to Grade 12, their initial curiosity gets the better of them and they become engaged with the activity at hand.  I wish that districts continue to allow students to engage in such meaningful learning experiences.  

Many teachers use Field studies in different ways.  Some will use them as an introductory activity, or during the middle of learning activities or at the end or culmination of their unit.  I wish as teachers we had more resources to create learning partnerships with local community organizations to use these resources not at one of these focal points, but all throughout our students learning.  Can you imagine allowing students to go to exhibit as an introduction, then again during their learning, and then at the end to synthesize it.  If this is too overzealous, I feel that teachers should at least have one field study planned for all major units in their class learning and development activities.

Students must learn to interact and apply what their learning to real life issues in their local community.  Bridging that gap is an important aspect of our teacher practice and using field studies as a resource makes it more achievable.  Finally our most vulnerable students may rarely have occasions or opportunities such as these and you will be providing those students an amazing opportunity to see something different to  what they have already experienced.

Field studies are fun, engaging, crazy but enlightening and allow students to learn outside of the normal learning environment.  As a teacher, I want my students to leave the classroom not only learning skills to be successful in working environments but more importantly, to give them experiences that teach them about culture, humanity, leadership and community.  Every time I walk into Science World, The Zoo or the Vancouver Aquarium I remember for a split second the wonderful experiences I had as a kid and realize that my teachers imparted the idea that learning takes place everywhere when they took me on those field excursions.

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