Field trips. Were they more then just a day off class?

By Devan Frigault,

Remember the good old days back in middle school when you got out of class to go to the museum or the zoo, and how you thought of them as merely a day off from class? But then you always seemed to learn something, one way or another? Field trips can help youth learn in ways other than being taught. Similar to sport and leisure activities, field trips are a way for youth to develop their own subjective views towards a particular subject and can insight curiosity that perhaps a video or picture in class cannot. The best way for youth to learn, and help them develop skills in life is by doing things themselves. Field trips in school are a perfect example of a way for youth to teach themselves (Vascellaro, 2011). Plus while they are learning, they know that they were not taught this information from someone, they did it themselves and can carry a sense of pride with it. Davidson, Passmore, and Anderson (2010) stated that field trips work by “increasing the curiosity and appreciation, developing motivation and interests and forming and refining personal identity.” The trips work for youth to learn for themselves the things that they find interesting and can cause them to look into certain things further on their own time.

Researchers have shown that field trips, if presented in a way that appeals to both the youths interests and correlates with what is being taught in class, increases the likelihood that they will remember what they learned over a longer period of time (Davidson, Passmore, and Anderson, 2010).

I’ve had many experiences in my youth where I didn’t find a class interesting in the slightest. Then our teacher took us on a trip to the museum, or the zoo or a political building and it would spark my interest. The trip brought what we were learning in class to life for me. It showed me that there was actually application for things, and showed me the importance of knowing some of the things we were learning. I also had the opportunity to see the other side of the situation by being the “teacher” during a field trip with the youth at my camps during the summer. We were taking the youth to a military facility to look at weapons, vehicles and gear that the military use while they are overseas. Before we took them myself and the other leaders spent a lot of time trying to get the kids excited for the trip. We explained to them how cool it is to be in one of the tanks or to get to use the weapon simulator, but they were never nearly as excited to go as we were. It wasn’t until we arrived at the facility and let the kids play with everything that they actually clued in to why we were so excited. Being at the facility, and actually getting to see everything we were talking about finally got them interested, and they talked about the trip for the duration of the camp.

The effects of field trips in youth are quite evident. They show that the youth have an increased chance of learning, increases their interest in the subject, all while they are having fun. So why are field trips limited primarily to elementary and middle schools? Would the diverse effects apply to older individuals as well? It would be interesting to see the effects it would have, and perhaps help make of our more boring classes a little more interesting.

References/ Additional Reading

Davidson, S. K., Passmore, C., & Anderson, D. (January 01, 2010). Learning on Zoo Field Trips: The Interaction of the Agendas and Practices of Students, Teachers, and Zoo Educators. Science Education, 94, 1, 122-141.

Vascellaro, S. (2011). Out of the classroom and into the world: Learning from field trips, educating from experience, and unlocking the potential of our students and teachers. New York: The New Press.

Every episode of The Magic School bus

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4 Responses to Field trips. Were they more then just a day off class?

  1. arie1976 says:

    Thinking back to my own days at school, I can heartily agree with Devan`s arguments showing that field trips are in fact more than a day off class. We certainly all were happy to exchange the classroom by being one day outside in “real life”. We also enjoyed being with our classmates in a setting other than the school building.

    In grade 11, at the age of 17, we went on a five days trip to Paris. It was a wonderful experience. As a preparation for this, we held short presentations about sights in Paris in our French class.

    We were all a bit reluctant about Paris at first, because we would have preferred to go to Florence. For organizational reasons, our teachers decided in favor of Paris. However, all reluctance was blown away when we arrived; our excitement was big when the top of the Eiffel Tower came into sight for the very first time. We all enjoyed the trip without exception, and were very enthusiastic about Paris from this time on. The learning effect and pedagogical value of this trip were immense – the cultural wealth of this beautiful city provided a learning environment full of joy for us.

    Andrea R.

  2. u95jq says:

    I completely agree with Devan, when I was in elementary school field trips were the best days because we didn’t have to listen to our teachers and could get away from the school but as I grew up and teachers took us out, it was really beneficial to helping us understand the topics we were studying in class. When I was in gr. 10 I had a french social studies class were we learned about WW2 and the different places the battles took place, it definitely wasn’t my favourite course but it was interesting. Then in my gr 12 year that teacher offered her students who took the class the opportunity to go to Europe and go visit the Canadian battlefields. This trip brought the course back to me and it’s still something that I think and talk about.
    Some students are not auditory learners so field trips are great for providing students with a new way of learning and are beneficial to those students who are visual learners.
    Great work! Emily M.

  3. Love the magic school bus reference!

    Great piece! I think the fact that a lot of students are Kinesthetic learners comes into affect, especially at such a young age were kids simply just can’t sit still in a classroom environment. Field trips were always great for the students, but it also had a soft spot for the teachers also because they are getting paid to not be at school and get away from the lecturing for a little while.

    Field trips are a creative teaching method that I believe more teacher should be doing. It’s allowing students to experience new things and observing their surroundings. This year I actually went on a field trip in a university class and I probably retained more information in that class than any other class I’ve been to in the past three years.


  4. c4956 says:

    Since there have been many posts suggesting the benefits of field trips already, I’ll try not to repeat what has been said.

    I can distinctly remember taking a field trip to city hall during elementary school, and being upset over how boring it was! The reason for my boredom was due to sitting down for an extended period of time and listening to a guest speaker talk about what the government does. Now that I think about it, that field trip portrayed, with quite some accuracy, what it would be like to work in politics. Now this is completely subjective to myself, but it taught me that I was not interested in that particular area.

    Additionally, I think that teachers shouldn’t always plan field trips within the parameters of pure education. Different individuals of any age will forge their own unique experiences. In grade 6, we went on a field trip to St-Andrews as an end-of-year activity. Though there was still a schedule to follow, each of us were glad to explore the different scenery; a sense of wonder somewhat akin to the example of visiting Paris, although on a much smaller scale. We saw Saint-Croix Island which, many years later, I would study history class.

    Field trips are a great way to poke the sense of curiosity in youth. They can create valuable memories and teachers should emphasize the fact that each student will take something unique away from their experience.

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