Yesterday, we studied the American Revolution while scavenger hunting at the Old North Bridge in Concord and acting like militia men at the Minuteman National Park in Lincoln. Field trip days are always favorites, and I wish we did more of them. Maybe someday, schools will look different and we’ll spend as many days out in the world as we do back in the classroom. How much more could we learn if the woods and streets of New England were our classroom? I used to work in a private school that took students on expeditions all over the country. It was a fascinating idea, but way too expensive for a public school.
Don’t worry. Even if daily field trips are not possible, I’m not going to give up on helping students learn through experience and adventure. It’s 2012, and now we can travel for free using the magic of the internet and our imaginations!
Here are some benefits of field trips that today we can get for free, using technology:
1. Talking to Experts — Yesterday, we worked with experts at Minuteman National Park who taught our students about the rich history in our area. Now, with organizations such as Skype in the Classroom, experts can come into the classroom through video conferencing without any long bus ride.
2. Seeing Live Action — If you didn’t get to come on our field trip and see how muskets worked during the time of the American Revolution, are you jealous? Don’t be! I filmed it so you can check it out. And there are lots of other people creating educational video content. We still use Discovery Education, but now there’s so much more out there these days on YouTube and other sites.
3. Experiencing Real Places — There’s nothing that can replace the feeling of standing on the Old North Bridge, knowing what happened there hundreds of years ago. However, it’s still pretty amazing to get to walk the streets of Rio DeJaneiro, look down on Machu Picchu, or even stand on Mars through the power of Google Earth.
4. Make Interdisciplinary Connections — Yesterday we ate lunch at some picnic tables in Minuteman Park. While at lunch, some students and I saw a very cute inchworm. We got a whole science lesson on insects right then and there, watching this little guy (and it was so great that I had to go home and turn my video footage into an art project). When students engage with real people, there are so many ways to combine Social Studies, Language Arts, Math, Science, and more. Organizations like iEarn, which develops collaborative projects between classrooms around the world, get my mind racing with possibility… But first, experience the wonder and amazement of the inchworm, our unexpected teacher yesterday:
5. Have fun — Of course, I’d never give up the chance to really travel and immerse oneself fully in a new place. It’s just plain fun, as you can see by our silly photo below. But maybe the magic of technology can take us places that we could never afford before. Students LOVE to explore using technology, and it makes them curious, enthusiastic, and alert. Now that’s preparation for the global world we live in. Or at least we’re inching in the right direction.