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Friday, March 11, 2016

Field Trips: Learning and Crowd Control

The NAV team lands the ship.
Today the class had a very good field study experience at the Christa McAuliffe Challenger Learning Center and Framingham State University Planetarium. Situated on the beautiful Framingham State University campus, the hands-on learning experience was an eye opener for many of us as the expert and child-friendly leaders led us on an incredible space adventure.

The start of the trip found the students participating in a Mars mission simulation. Children worked in teams to "fly a ship" to Mars with the support of the team that was already "stationed on the planet." For a couple of hours students worked in spaces that replicated a spaceship and NASA control center. There they utilized computers and a number of aeronautical tools, stations, and roles to simulate the job that astronauts and space teams complete with regard to safe and scientific space exploration.

The Data Team demonstrated terrific leadership.
Later, after lunch in a beautiful college room overlooking the campus, students learned more about space during a wonderful planetarium presentation. Many children were intrigued by the college campus too.

On one hand, I love the fact that students have the chance to learn in wonderful locations by terrific, dedicated experts. I really believe that many students truly enjoyed and profited from the experience as their investment, comments, and new learning exhibited that.

On the other hand, the difficult part of a field trip, is the crowd control. Different than visiting an educational location with a few students, there's always a bit of crowd control when you are learning and moving about with large groups of students. There's a lot of prep work required and coaching throughout the event to make sure that all children understand the expectations with regard to listening to experts, using good manners in a new environment, and participating with interest and care. Safety is a first priority on trips like this which finds me very serious and watchful throughout the trip.

Working with the Mars Team to fix the probe.
The commander supports the communication
team astronaut.
Since this was a first field trip for us, there was a bit of unknown for the teachers as well. I definitely want to make this field trip a permanent part of the schedule and from the comments from the teaching team, family members that chaperoned, and students, I think we'll book next year's trip soon.

Next year, however, I'd like to do a bit more prep with students so they know what to expect and I'd like to match chaperones with specific jobs and teams too to support students well with the sophisticated learning tasks. I will also look for opportunities to attend related professional learning sessions at the Christa McAuliffe Integrated Science Center in order to develop my knowledge to support students' learning before and during the event as well.

We have another field experience planned for another new location next week. On Monday I want to spend a bit of time talking to the students about what's important when it comes to working together to learn a lot and still have a good time on a field trip. Some of the points we'll discuss include the following:
  • Walking not running and staying together.
  • Eyes on the speaker and good listening.
  • Raising hands when you want to speak (important when you're learning with large groups)
  • Polite speak: Using please and thank you. 
  • Treating objects and spaces with respect. Picking up after yourself, leaving places as you found them, and using objects the way they are meant to be used. 
  • In case of emergency, look to your leader for directions.
Field studies truly invigorate the year's learning program. The time and effort that we devote to planning these events, preparing students, leading the events, integrating the learning with classroom learning, and reflecting/revising the events to best meet students' interests and needs are important focus areas with regard to the field study impact, ease, engagement, and learning.