Making the Case for Field Trips: What Research Tells Us and What Site Coordinators Have to Say

By Nabors, Martha L.; Edwards, Linda Carol et al. | Education, Summer 2009 | Go to article overview
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Making the Case for Field Trips: What Research Tells Us and What Site Coordinators Have to Say

Nabors, Martha L., Edwards, Linda Carol, Murray, R. Kent, Education

Field trips in the formative years are one of the most important things teachers can provide for their students. As we all know, children learn by doing. They remember what they have personally experienced. In addition, concept development is optimized through active, explorative experiences. Field trips are a type of experiential learning that gets children away from the traditional classroom setting and into a new mode of learning. They can be as simple as taking a class of children out on the school grounds for a lesson in observation, or as detailed as an out-of-state visit to a particular field site. Field trips not only expand children's learning and experiences by providing them with hands-on experiences, they also increase children's knowledge and understanding of the world in which they live.

The recent fuel crisis in America has forced most school districts to reevaluate the instructional importance of field trips in light of rising fuel costs and, in some cases, depleting fuel supplies for bus fleets. The current standards-driven accountability movement has also had a significant impact upon our school leaders, who cherish the limited number of instructional minutes teachers have with children. The nation's goals seem to maximize standardized testing preparation. This article addresses the positive instructional impact of field trips and focuses on 5 major components of the field trip experience: value, logistics, planning, and health and safety issues. It also presents the findings from a national survey conducted by two undergraduate students at the College of Charleston, Katie Wise and Jamie Lee Vandetti. The purpose of this survey was three-fold: (1) to solicit feedback from nationally recognized field trip sites regarding their experiences with successful visits by students; (2) to compile data to reflect the opinions of field site coordinators for successful field trips, and (3) to make recommendations for teachers on how to plan and implement successful field trips.

Value of field trips

Current research (Kisiel, 2006, Martin & Seevers, 2003; DeMarie, 2001 ; Knapp, 2002) has shown that field trips are essential for many reasons. Field trips provide real experiences related to all content areas. For example, a trip to a bird sanctuary brings all the sights, sounds, and nesting habits of these animals to life for children. Field trips extend learning by expanding a child's world and provide a framework for learning. Children visiting a construction site can return to the classroom and build their own homes, businesses, or even sky scrappers in the block center.

Field trips enrich and expand the curriculum.

Children begin to think outside the box, as well as learning outside of the classroom. For example, third grade children are required to study and learn about state government. A field trip to City Hall or the court house gives children a first hand look at who runs the government.

Field trips strengthen observation skills by immersing children into sensory activities.

For example, a trip to the aquarium brings the sharks up close and personal for children to observe teeth, fins, and eyes. This is certainly something that children will not find in a textbook.

Field trips increase children's knowledge in a particular subject area.

A visit to a natural history museum is much more exciting and informative than watching a video or reading a textbook (Semlak & Beck, 1999).

Field trips expand children's awareness of their own community.

When children take a field trip to visit the local fire or police departments, they begin to understand, in a very concrete way, the value of these important community resources. Field trips focusing on a "beach-sweep," or "street-sweep," allow children to participate in activities in which they become community advocates. Field trips provide living laboratories where children acquire knowledge outside the realm of the regular classroom.

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Making the Case for Field Trips: What Research Tells Us and What Site Coordinators Have to Say


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