Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Take me out on a field trip...
I love field trips with the children. Connecting with nature in different environments is one of my favorite things to do with them. Preparing for field trips and helping the children begin to see something in the environment that they were not aware of before is very satisfying.
I have read that it is not until you have the language to classify something that you can actually see/notice/appreciate it. If all we know about trees is that they are "trees" then they are a green blur in the landscape. But as soon as you know how to differentiate them, their barks, the shapes of their leaves, their relationship to animals and insects, THEN you can't but stop in front of a tree and find it amazing.
In my training, the trainer did not recommend taking the 3-6 year olds out on field trips because they are in a stage where they prefer what is known and comfortable for them to unknown surprises. Field trips can disrupt their sense of order and stress them out. I understand and agree with this. In order to compensate, we prepare very much for our field trips. We mark our calendar weeks in advance, we talk about what the place will be like and what our routine on that day will be like. As the date gets closer, I go into more and more detail about where we are going and what the experience will be like. I think this gives the children positive reinforcement about what behavior is expected of them, and calms them to be able to visualize what is going to happen.
In reality, I don't really expect the field trip to be anything more than a brief sensorial experience in a new environment. But I try to plan for it to be so much more. We make identification booklets of flora and fauna that we may encounter- the children draw or color the plants and animals and make small check boxes for marking off when they see it. We bring samples of plants or minerals we may see on our trip. We make classification cards of geologic structures, plants, animals or minerals we may focus on. So much to do in preparation!
Instead of using a field trip as a culmination to a "unit", we try to integrate the experience into our daily classroom life and find ways of continuing and deepening the themes. For example, we continue to expand our shell collection from our first trip to the sand dunes where we went simply to collect shells and slide on the sand. When a child brings in a new shell we label it and add it to the group. The children continue to reinforce their knowledge of shells by visiting the ever changing collection.
Making a photo book of the field trip and captioning it with words that an older child can read to himself or others is another great way to continue the experience. A set of these memory books is invaluable to a feeling of community experience.
Anyway, I was inspired to write about this since we are just beginning to bring out works related to our next field trip which will be to the Ayo Rock Formations. We are starting to look at rocks and minerals- beginning with the story of quartz, three kinds of it, their names (clear, milky, and amethyst), and a geode that we will smash open tomorrow morning. The children speculated about what would be inside the geode and about how to open it- they all agreed hammer would do the trick.