A field trip is a big event in the school life of every primary class child. It is a school day with a difference, like an extended recess period, and hence popular with all children. When there are no classes, the impatience to come to school is evident from the happy chatter and the eager patter of feet! And you can be sure that even the most reluctant student will be there. While any field trip should be fun, it’s also important to remember that there are always lessons to be learnt, and it helps to plan ahead of time what we would like the children to learn from their trip. So let’s look at the field trip with new eyes, work out a theme and throw in some fun awards while we’re at it!
Before the day out
Some groundwork could be done before the day out. So where is the class going? And what is the purpose of the trip? Is it just the annual class picnic, aimed at fostering a sense of community and fun, or is there a more serious learning agenda at work? Both purposes are legitimate, but it’s just important to know ahead of time which is primary. As we know, scientific, cultural and historic places of a city provide great learning opportunities. The teacher could do a ‘recce’ of the site to get a sense of the place and assess it for the learning objectives to be achieved. Send out letters to the parents informing them and seeking their permission. Some schools do not mind inviting parents as volunteers to help on the Day Out.
Make a list of things children will need to carry and get them involved in making name tags for the big day. A demo or even a role-play is effective in showing children how to take care of themselves and their personal belongings while on the trip. This will save you precious time on the big day.
The teacher could make a checklist of activities for proper time management of the event. Factor in time for toilet breaks. Does any child need medication? What about lakeside/riverside precautions if you’re going to be near one, and lunch/snack responsibility and supervision? How about safety from stray animals? Do they need walking shoes and a notebook or drawing pad perhaps? Is there need for a camcorder or a camera? What about time for spot drawing or even a writing class? What about keeping some surprise prizes for distribution at the end of the day?
Making a list of the expected learning outcomes helps bring possible creative inflections to spontaneous activities. For example an obvious song for a boat trip – ‘Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream’ – could get transformed into a farm trip song – ‘Hoe, hoe, hoe your wheat, gently down the field!’
Keeping the group together is often a challenge on field trips. Some children will walk ahead of the designated leader. They may not know exactly where they are going, but they have to get there first – that is the main idea! Others will trail behind picking up this and that. Appoint leaders to help out. And while doing this, it is important to involve the whole class, not just those who always end up standing the tallest or shouting the loudest!
Social skills and civic sense
Field trips are good time to hone the social skills of the class as well as instill a civic sense in children – crossing the road, using dustbins, speaking politely to bus drivers, attendants or guides – good citizenship skills in other words. Watch out closely for the shy children in your class. They are often at ease on a field trip and may spring a surprise with some hidden talent.
Themes and fun award titles
To make field trips memorable they can be organised around a theme. The teacher could think out loud with the class while working out the theme for the trip. For example, on a trip to a fort a theme like ‘Blast into the PastPast’ can work. How about ‘Jungle Jamboree’ for a trip to a sanctuary? Make a list of accessories you might need to express the theme. Simple badges or hand bands with the theme on it can be made for the children to wear. Posters or a banner to put up on the bus, streamers and bunting add to the ambience. Fun awards can be given at the end of the day – Polite Child of the Day, Good Citizen of the Day, Helpful Child of the Day, Volunteer of the Day, Treasure Hunter of the Day or other theme related awards. Sashes can be made with the award title written on them. Teachers may hand these out in the bus on the way back. All the collateral and giveaways become precious keepsakes for the child and aid recall.
Self-learning is the flavour of the day
The day out is one day when the teacher is next to the children and not standing in front of them armed with a book. The teacher becomes a planner and coordinator and stays behind the scenes because self-learning is the flavour of the day. Traditional teaching takes a back seat and learning catches the children unawares.
A field trip may be structured or unstructured. A visit to a zoo or a biscuit factory would be a structured field trip where the agenda is clear, the learning outcomes predetermined. The teacher has to simply ensure that orderliness is maintained while the host guide puts the children through the paces. The teacher may step in when needed to help children grasp the given information.
There is always scope for impromptu activities during field trips, such as singing, dancing, writing, drawing, even photography! For older children, it might help to create an observation or record sheet that the children have to fill in after the trip. Give these sheets to them ahead of time so that they can think about the things they are to observe or make notes on during the visit.
Structured or unstructured, field trips make textbook subjects palpably real. Children and the teacher explore and discover together. The five senses are put into action. Such learning, in a natural and pleasant manner as we all know, is quick and stays in the mind.
To evaluate the success of the field trip the teacher has to look at her notes, the verbal or written feedback and the art work of the children. Are the children able to recall field experience at a later stage? To ensure that self-motivated learning takes place during the event the children should be curious enough to know more and ask questions. Did we get the children curious enough before we started? Were the children active learners or passive observers? Were they able to make the connections? Did any self-generated understanding take place? The field trip offers the child a chance to gather first hand experience of a place and lets him form his own impressions. The teacher has to merely facilitate this process and enable learning that lasts.
Sujata C is a freelance writer based in Hyderabad. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.