Saturday, August 24, 2013

Farm Days Field Study: Details

Drumlin Farm
Learning doesn't just happen between the four walls of the classroom. In fact, some will argue that most learning happens outside of the four walls of the classroom.  That's one reason why we've created the Farm Days Field Studies with Drumlin Farm's dedicated education coordinator, Robin Stuart. Instead of traveling to three different locations, we synthesized three field explorations into one multi-day field study titled Farm Days.

We want students to realize that learning can happen anywhere, and that learning related to biology, anthropology, environmental studies, history, and even technology often happens in the field. Over a series of three to four day-long visits, students will study curriculum objectives in the field.

Each field day students will dress for the weather and outdoor exploration, and we'll bring along parent volunteers, "Wonder" scientific notebooks, and lunches. The field days will be scheduled once per month in September, October, and November, and a fourth trip in the spring if we can get the funding. Each day will have a unique focus that matches our curriculum objectives.

Day One: What Scientists Do: Human and Environment Interaction
During the first day, students will focus on the theme of human and environment interaction. During that time they will explore the following questions:
  • What is a scientist?
  • What tools does a scientist use including the five senses?
  • What is data?
  • What does it mean to collect data over time?
  • What is a habitat?
  • What does a habitat need to be viable?
Students will explore multiple habitats using their senses to chart information in their science "wonder" notebooks. By making observations, asking questions, and recording information the students will conduct scientific study as they compare two habitats. This contemplative and active exploration will provide students with the experience, in part, of what it means to be a scientist. Later in the day students will have the chance to understand the connection of farms and people. They'll study the farm as a habitat and participate in both livestock and crop chores. Prior to and after the visit, we'll match our in-class efforts with the field experience by focusing our close reading/reading response work on passages related to farms, habitats, the five senses, and scientific exploration. We also have corresponding habitat videos that connect with this field study, related writing choices, and possible extended field studies on our playground. 

Day Two: Native American Life and the Land
Our fourth grade curriculum focuses on culture beginning with students' individual culture and expanding to Native American cultures and cultures throughout United States regions. During the October Farm Days field study students will imagine what it was like to live 1,000 years ago, a time before the technology we know today existed.  Students will explore what life might have been like for Native Americans in our region including food, shelter, tools and technology, and reading the landscape: relationships between people, land, plants, and animals then and now. Students will engage in a number of hands-on activities including cooking, nature walks/exploration, skill building games, and artifacts. Both during the field study and afterwards, students will chart their experiences in their "Wonder" notebooks.  In class they'll have the chance to view related videos, read related literature, chart questions, and research areas of interest.

Day Three: Animal and Plant Adaptations
During this day students will be introduced to the main animal groups. Then students will learn about the adaptations of specific groups through guided inquiry and exploration related to animals that live at Drumlin Farm.  Later in the day students will have the chance to visit a variety of habitats looking for signs of animal life and adaptations.  Classroom close reading/reading response activities will focus on the science of animal adaptation either prior to or following this field study utilizing an animal adaptation study kit and website we've used in the past. We also have videos that connect to this unit.

Day Four: Spring Visit: Habitat Change and Animal/Habitat Protection (funding?)
In the spring students will return to Drumlin Farm to do another guided sensory habitat exploration noting seasonal changes.  Students will utilize previously collected data and hypothesis during this exploration. During this visit students will also focus on the issues of extinction, habitat loss, and pollution--factors that affect the land we live in.  We'll look for ways that we can work to protect habitats and species.  These efforts will connect with our spring endangered species research project and geology studies. Two more field studies including a trip to Franklin Park Zoo and a trip to Wolf Hollow as well as visits from Dr. Sheffels, a local geologist, will also inform our research, writing, and presentation work at this time. 

I'm excited about this change in field trips because rather than a "drive-by" experience, students will establish a relationship with an organization that contributes to education and the environment over multiple visits. We'll think about ways that we can pre-assess and post-assess students' knowledge and experience related to this visit in the days to come as we put the finishing touches on the planning and funding for the experiences. If you have any ideas to offer us, please do. We're looking forward to these field studies as ways to develop student skill and knowledge as well as our grade level learning community spirit and investment.

Related Post
Farm Days Continue

Close Reading
Teacher Resource for Close Reading
Habitats of the World
The Five Senses
Native American Culture and the Land
Animal Adaptation
A Child's Life on a Farm 1890-1915
Children in the Field: Child Farm Labor Editorial
Children Working on Farms: Another Point of View
The Debate on Child Farm Labor: 60 Minutes
How to Bring Extinct Animals Back to Life
Escape from Extinction
Extinction Countdown
Protecting Habitats
Make a Nature Journal
Keeping a Nature Journal
Introduction to the Nature Journal

Five Senses Poem

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