Monday, July 14, 2014

Field Studies: Developing Relationships With Local Learning Organizations

The Discovery Museums
Last year our grade level team established a strong working relationship with a local Audubon farm. We titled the field study, Farm Days. The days on the farm were well received by students and led to a three-year River Days grant. These field experiences had many successful elements including the following:
  • Children had the experience of learning outside of the four walls of the classroom.
  • Students learned with experts in the field.
  • Students learned about their local habitat in a hands-on way.
  • The locations of the field trip were nearby thus making it easy for students to revisit and replicate the learning with their families.
  • We supported local education and environmental organizations. 
  • Students learned to be stewards of their local habitat.
  • Multiple standards across discipline were embedded in the field studies.
  • We supported the studies with in-class interdisciplinary efforts including reading, writing, and math exercises.
  • We profited from the time, organization, outreach, and expertise of the field study organizations.
This year as a fifth grade teacher, I hope to grow a similar project with a local science museum, The Acton Discovery Museum. I've been following the Acton Discovery Museum's wonderful work for many, many years. The Acton Discovery Museum has wonderful outreach to multiple local businesses and organizations with a particular emphasis on STEAM which is our fifth grade focus.

I took the first step this morning by writing to our curriculum leadership and grade-level team for thoughts, ideas, and support.

If support is received, I'll take the next step which will be to make an appointment with the Museum's leadership. After that I'll draft the grant and meet with my grade-level team to review, revise, and enrich the details. 

Dynamic standards-based programming like this depends on lead time--lead time for research, lead time for grant writing, lead time to plan the dates, and lead time to communicate all the details to the learning community.

What kinds of field studies do you employ to enrich your students' learning?  How do you effectively plan for learning events like this?  Do you have any suggestions for me? 

I like to express ideas like this well in advance of the actual event because this kind of share leads to improving and bettering the idea even before the first steps of planning occur which results in better learning for the children. Don't you agree?