Fenichel, Marilyn, Schweingruber, Heidi A.. "9 Extending and Connecting Opportunities to Learn Science." Surrounded by Science: Learning Science in Informal Environments. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2010.
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Surrounded by Science: Learning Science in Informal Environments
the trip and the visit itself, the more likely that the activities will align with classroom curriculum and be viewed as valuable experiences by teachers. Not surprisingly, the more engaged the teachers are, the more students will learn. Since field trips are often akin to “outsourcing” expertise, and informal science educators are in fact expected to assume the role of instructor, teachers still need to remain visibly engaged in order for their students to sustain their own participation and engagement. Informal science educators often need teachers to help with class management and crowd control as well.
Parent and teacher chaperones are an essential element of school field trips, often required to supervise students. Unfortunately, it is difficult to recruit chaperones in sufficient numbers. Depending on the nature of the field trip experience, chaperones (like classroom teachers) could assume an enhanced educational role, providing interpretation and instruction and focusing student attention where needed and when appropriate. In fact, there is little evidence that chaperones are used in this fashion. When the California Science Center experimented with chaperone-led field trips, teachers did not make much use of the program, and the initial research on the effectiveness of chaperones as field trip docents was inconclusive.9
While teachers and parent chaperones could be a productive resource for the field trip, there are many informal educators who recommend that they both be used sparingly to avoid adult intervention in student learning. It is a fine line between focusing students’ attention and changing the experience from one of discovery to one of lecture and demonstration.
Reinforcement After the Field Trip
Although teachers intend to do follow-up after a field trip, they often end up just collecting and grading student worksheets that are given out during the field trip. Griffin’s 1994 study of field trips taken by students in 13 Australian schools showed that about half of the teachers reported that they planned to do follow-up activities but only about a quarter actually ended up doing so.10 In addition, few students expected to receive meaningful follow-up, perhaps indicating what they experience most frequently. Studies in Canada, Germany, and the United States produced similar findings.11
One of the reasons that developing meaningful post-visit activities is challenging is that the experience often does not align with the classroom learning program. As a result, follow-up activities could potentially disrupt the work