Why Field Trips are Essential
I have been trying to make my way through a stack of unread magazines accumulating during the first 4 years twin parenting on my coffee table this summer. Imagine my surprise when I opened the December 2014/January 2015 edition of NAEYC's Teaching Young Children and read "Trips such as these help children get to know the people and community in which they live." (pg16. Vol 8. No2) NAEYC (or National Association for the Education of Young Children) has long been considered one of the leaders in Early Childhood Education. In this (sort of) recent issue entitled Playing and Learning Beyond the Classroom article after article spouted the importance and practicalities of field trips. Given that this is a huge passion of mine and given the recent launch of our Bambini Field Guide aimed at just this, I was excited. Giddy had to stop pedaling my stationary bike excited. Learning through adventure is becoming a real, validated idea.
Learning through adventure or, put more commonly, taking field trips is an essential part of a child's education. At the root of education is the goal of teaching children how to thrive in the world. Obviously a lot of skills are needed to be successful in the world. We must be able to read, communicate with others, problem solve, add and subtract, etc. So often these skills are taught exclusively in the classroom, an isolated bubble away from the actual world where these skills will be needed. It renders the concepts almost completely meaningless when you remove the context.
Leaving the classroom or home, encourages you to see, meet, do, and explore.
Take the example of a field trip to a farmer's market. These photos are from our trip to the Old Town Farmers' Market in Alexandria, but there are farmers' markets in most communities. A simple trip to the local farmers market is inexpensive, yet is rich in real world experiences for young children. Here are some learning opportunities to consider:
See: Observe the world around you. See everything. The colors of the flowers and produce. The interactions between people. Take note of signage.
Meet: Meet the people who work there. Talk to the farmers who bring the produce and other goods to the market. Learn to complete a transaction.
Do: Scavenger hunts, take photos, ask questions. Taste the food and vote on a favorite.
Explore: Develop a variety of skills such as; self regulation, colors, shapes, language, currency.
Where else can you go?
There are other specific examples in this edition. Think about your community. Think about the interests of your children or students. The things that are coming up frequently in conversation and play. Is there somewhere that relates you could visit?
The world is rich with possibilities for thought, conversation, and learning. It gives meaningful context to the lengthy list of skills and concepts on checklists and assessment tools. It stimulates play and learning in a natural way. Most importantly, thriving in the world is the goal so the sooner with give children the opportunity to develop life skills in the appropriate context the better.
I read the magazine cover to cover, closed it, and said "Yup." It was comforting to have my theory of learning through adventure and Bambini Travel validated by such a respected source, but better still was the idea that more teachers and educators will be inspired to head out of the classroom more with young children. I hope we can all move away from the standardized assessments and nervous forced education towards interest driven, differientiated, meaningful education that is more likely to result in the confident, flexible, thoughtful, creative problem solvers that our world really needs.
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