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Being There: Field Trips

Learning on Your Feet

John Medina of Brain Rules said, “If you were to design an almost perfect anti-brain learning environment, it would look something like this.”

You can watch the video about the importance of learning on your feet here. 

People assume that the longer a student spends sitting “on task” at a desk, the more learning is happening. In reality, after sitting for a few minutes, the brain’s ability to process information is greatly reduced. Students should not sit for long. They need to move and be active participants in the learning process.

Motor skills are fundamental to learning. Educator Eric Jensen said, "Physical activity is good not only for the heart, but also for the brain, feeding it glucose and oxygen and increasing nerve connections, all of which makes it easier for children of all ages to learn. Numerous studies show that children who exercise do better in school." (Newsweek, 2/19/96)

Students need to move to learn!

Real Learning

Sitting at a desk, a student is mostly dealing with one form of learning – symbols. These symbols are the letters and numbers that make up the textbooks and workbooks that most children are consigned to use. But there are some real downfalls to relying on symbols only. For example, read the following paragraph:

These are marine invertebrates. They typically have a central disc and five arms, though some species have a larger number of arms. The aboral or upper surface may be smooth, granular or spiny, and is covered with overlapping plates. Many species are brightly colored in various shades of red or orange, while others are blue, gray or brown. They have tube feet operated by a hydraulic system and a mouth at the center of the oral or lower surface.

If you guessed a sea star or starfish, you would be right. But most people imagine something more like a sea cucumber. This is to illustrate that words alone can be confusing and may not give a clear image of a subject. It's better if the students also have pictures of the subject. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. So much more can be learned with an image of the item.

Even better than a picture is a life-like representation of an item. Let's imagine the teacher made a sea star out of sand paper and labeled the parts. The students can feel the texture and perhaps the teacher would have a removable flap where the students can see what the inside of the sea star might be like.

Yet better than a likeness of an item would be if the teacher can show the real object. This would have the most accurate information about what a sea star looks like, feels like, smells like, etc.

Even better would be to immerse the students in the subject by creating a life-like sea star environment. The room could look like a beach and she could bring in a touch tank and allow the students to touch living sea stars.

Finally, the ultimate way to learn about a topic is to actually go see the real thing in its natural setting. When students visit a tide pool at the ocean, the learning is profound. They are learning with all their senses. They will not only learn about sea stars, but they will also learn about the environment that a sea star exists in. These are the things that the students will go home and tell Mom about. When Susie comes home and says, “Did you know that…” or “Guess what I saw?” This is when she will spontaneously share the things that she learned that day. Also, after being exposed to the subject in such a profound way, the child is more likely to take an interest in the subject and choose to learn more, often in the form of books. They will want to build on what they like and are familiar with.

These field trips come with the added bonus that the students are moving while they learn, making the entire experience that much more profound and memorable. These experiences are especially profound when the field trips also relate to the topics that the child is currently studying.

Let's get out!!

Field Trip Coordinator Guidelines

    1. Coordinate with the venue.
      1. Contact location to set up a trip.
      2. Use the Field Trip Planning Form to help you gather all necessary information.
      3. Pay deposit, if required.
    2. Decide how much to charge your families for the trip. The cost should include:
      1. The amount the venue charges – sometimes venues charge per person, sometimes they charge a flat fee for a group. Some venues are free. Tip: It’s a good idea to always charge something, even if the venue is free. Unfortunately, you get a high amount of no-shows on trips that families don’t pay for.
      2. A fee for your organizing – you can make this whatever you think is fair for both you and the families.
      3. Additional funds to cover the cost of you registration system and/or credit card processing, if you use these tools.
    3. Set up registration.
      Use Google Docs, Facebook Events, and/or events at

    4. Promote your trip.
      1. Create a flyer to give your families.
      2. Compose an email to send to your families.
      3. Promote your event on social media.
      4. Invite families from other groups (such as local homeschool support groups), if you need more families.
    5. Confirm details with the venue one week before the trip, including final participant count.

    6. Two days before the trip, email participants, detailing the information that the families will need in order to attend. Tell the families to check in with you 15-30 minutes before the start of the trip.

    7. On the day of the trip:
      1. Arrive early to check with with the venue.
      2. Greet the families and check them in.
      3. Get a final head count.
      4. Pay the venue (if necessary)

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