tations, or participating in discussions with facilitators and peers.6 For example, children who had an opportunity to handle materials, become involved in science activities, and observe animals and objects were excited about the experience. Similarly, a review of earlier field trip studies—from 1939 to 1989—by John Koran and his colleagues showed that hands-on involvement with exhibits results in more changes in attitudes and interest than passive experiences.7
To help keep students engaged throughout their field trip experience, Australian researchers Janette Griffin and David Symington argued for the inclusion of structured activities in the field trip.8 Observing 30 unstructured classroom visits to museums, they noted that very few students continued exploring the museum purposefully after the first half hour of hands-on activities. Instead, most students were observed talking in the museum café, sitting on gallery benches, copying each other’s worksheets, or moving quickly from exhibit to exhibit.
While individual field trips differ dramatically in their goals and character, it appears that successful ones combine elements of structured or guided exploration and learning that are designed with the unique opportunities of the setting in mind. They also incorporate opportunities for students to follow their own individual agenda by exploring on their own or in small groups. While teachers and the host institution may have to show that the field trip connects to standards or is linked to school curricula, field trips are also a way to introduce students to lifelong learning resources in their community.
Although studies have consistently shown that classroom teacher involvement in field trips can be key to their success, during most field trips the institution’s staff members, not teachers, are usually responsible for making the connections between the exhibits and classroom content. What’s more, a variety of studies indicate that teachers tend to assume a passive and unengaged role during field trips. The evidence indicates that the more involved teachers are in both planning