There’s nothing more exciting on a sunny spring morning than a school bus waiting with its door open, a bag lunch (that hopefully includes a “brookie!”), and hours with friends on a learning adventure ahead. Students have been taking their learning on the road this spring. Field trip!
“Field trips, when embedded into the overall learning experiences of a unit, can provide a unique perspective for students that extends beyond the walls of a classroom,” says Melissa Olson, director of curriculum and instructional practices. “We believe strongly in flexible use of time and space, and this is just one more example of what that can look and sound like.”
At Spring Lake Park Schools, we have two types of field trips. Instructional field trips are those that are required in order to master a learning outcome. Voluntary field trips enrich or enhance the learning experience but aren’t required to achieve the outcome. Purposeful connections before and after the field trip help reinforce the learning.
Music at Orchestra Hall
More than 400 fifth graders traveled to Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis for a concert by Minnesota Orchestra called, "Music Around the Globe." This field trip tied to the "World Music Unit" in 5th grade general music.
“In our learning, we ‘travel’ the world learning about different countries and play instruments from those locations,” says Bailey Geist Schlottman, music teacher. “The concert connected to some of the locations – the USA, Mexico, Caribbean nations, and Africa. Students were surprised to see that classical music is still being composed today in many new ways, and it comes from all over the world, not just European countries.”
Many students had never been to a concert before and many had never seen an orchestra or a concert hall. They applied what they learned about audience expectations as they experienced real-life, live performers in a professional setting.
The experience is not only tied to current learning but future learning as well. In 6th grade, students will have an "Instruments of the Orchestra Unit" and a "World Music Unit." They will be able to connect these different areas of the world to their experience this spring. Band and choir students will also be able to make connections to instruments and vocal repertoire.
“Many of the students made connections with the various instruments along with parts of the world that they have connections to or want to travel to someday,” says Bailey. “The students were shocked to see a full ensemble making music together. Many could not believe performers got paid for making music. It opens doors for careers and musical interests.”
Math at Target Field
Fourth graders from Park Terrace were learning how to calculate area and perimeter. They took their learning on the road to Target Field where a licensed Minnesota math teacher (retired) teaches a 45-minute lesson about area and perimeter in baseball. The students learned how to find the area and perimeter of the home plate and the strike zone of a player.
“We want students to understand how the concepts we're learning in class are directly related to real life concepts,” says teacher Justine Tschida. “We also wanted the kids to get out in the city that we live in and that they are growing up in! So many of our kids have never been to a baseball game before.”
After the lesson, students got a tour of the field and were able to see behind the scenes of Target Field.
“[The lesson] was the perfect length, and it was hands on. They got to create a home plate out of paper that was the actual size,” says Justine. “The tour was so fun because they felt like private and famous guests! It was great to have a balance of learning and fun.”
Migration and hibernation at Science Museum
For kindergarteners, field trips represent a first-time experience. Centerview kindergarteners were learning about migration and hibernation. At the Science Museum, they watched a film in the Omni Theatre, Wings Over Water, which showed many different birds and their hibernation and migration patterns along with efforts to preserve the land they need for survival.
Students also made connections to the reading they were doing focused on how life has changed over time.
“We are reading a series titled, Then and Now, where students explore what life was like in the past and how it has changed over time,” says teacher Emily Magner. “The exhibit showcases how the Twin Cities has changed. Students furthered their understanding of the progression of transportation, communication, housing, and schools through pictures and activities.”
The connections go beyond academic learning outcomes. Kindergarteners had a chance to practice many fundamental skills they work on each day at school out in the world together.
Students practiced “interacting with new people and experiences, following the group plan and making safe choices for your body, showing self-control in public and using your voice to advocate for your needs,” says Emily. “All of these skills were put into practice on our field trip.”
The entire Northpoint building went to the Science Museum on one day in April. At Woodcrest, students have been getting out by grade level with on-site learning connections at the Bell Museum, Alexander Ramsey House, Minnesota Zoo, and Mill City Museum.
“Field trips provide opportunities for students to explore and have new worldly experiences they otherwise may not have the chance to have,” says Emily.
Many students have first time experiences on a field trip. These learning experiences are a chance to visit places in the community they may not be able to access outside of school due to cost, distance or other barriers to access.
Field trips can bring classroom learning to life in a more tangible way for students and create community connections. Beyond the tie to immediate learning, it might ignite a spark in a future career and entice our students to try out a particular pathway in the future. Melissa Olson, director of curriculum and instructional practices.