Academic journal article Rural Educator

Describing Connections between Science Content and Future Careers: Implementing Texas Curriculum for Rural At-Risk High School Students Using Purposefully-Designed Field Trips

Academic journal article Rural Educator

Describing Connections between Science Content and Future Careers: Implementing Texas Curriculum for Rural At-Risk High School Students Using Purposefully-Designed Field Trips

Article excerpt

The state of Texas has an 'essential knowledge ' component in some high school science courses indicating that students be able to describe connections between academic science content and future jobs or training through effective exposure to course content. The participants in this study were from a small rural high school in central Texas. Each was labeled as 'at-risk ' and self-identified an inability to describe those types of connections after earning credit in more than one science course with that 'essential knowledge ' component. A career-focused field trip to a local vocational/technology training center was designed to address that particular deficit. This study followed a narrative multiple-case case study design. Data included school records, surveys, individual and focus group interviews, and field notes from observations during the field trip. The effectiveness of the field trip was evident as each participant was able to describe connections immediately following the excursion.

Keywords: Field trips; At-risk students; Narratives; Science pedagogy; Consequences of high-stakes testing.

Universally students often lament that academic content bears little meaning to their experience (Bialeschki, 2007; Hardre, Crowson, Debacker, & White, 2007). Comments such as, Why do I have to learn that? or, When will I ever use this? resound in every classroom and in every discipline whether adolescents are engaged and participating or bored and frustrated. A good part of their vocalizing is likely peer-driven, normal and expected. However, some students actually realize very little connection between academic content and their lives or their futures (Hardre, 2007). For these students, school is simply a location and series of activities that consume seven or more hours of the day. In content areas where abstraction and analysis are necessary, such as higher mathematics and sciences, this disconnect can present particular frustrations for many adolescent students (Scarce, 1997; KoIb, 1984). The purpose of this study was to determine the efficacy of a purposefully designed field trip experienced by 12th grade students from a small, rural central Texas high school. Because there is also a chronic lack of research dealing with issues predominant in rural schools and their students, this project offered an opportunity to increase the knowledge base on engagement of rural students with academic content (Hardre et al., 2007). Having taught in rural schools for over twenty years, this research was personally significant as I continue to advocate for the inclusion of field trips across the curriculum, but most particularly with my academic content - high school science.

Field trips represent one pedagogical option teachers can employ for specific curricular outcomes. At its very basic level, a field trip provides students with something other than the mind-numbing day-today routines in the classroom and may provide a unique experience to construct or reinforce meanings and connections (Roberts, 2006). Such excursions help students recognize the need for learning to read and write, as well as to understand the concepts introduced in the classroom by exposing students to a world greater than the one they inhabit from day-today and the career possibilities in that larger context (Carroll, 2007). In this study, a field trip was designed to introduce students to several vocational training programs that build upon science instruction they should have experienced in their rural high school classes but that was identified as problematic or missing.

Texas Science Curriculum

The State Board of Education (SBOE) of Texas adopts and approves the complete curriculum presented in grades K-12 for all public schools across the state. The content within each subject is referred to as the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills or TEKS. Recent revisions (Texas Education Agency, 2009b) in the state's curriculum have changed and increased the requirements for high school graduation; the revisions were immediately implemented upon adoption, affecting the 9'h grade students entering that fall. …

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