When most people think about school, education, or learning, they picture sitting at a desk, taking notes on a lesson. Although this is a vital part of any educational experience, I think that it is overrated. In my opinion, our most important educational experiences occur outside of the domain of the school building. It is field trips, not lessons, that give students ideas and inspirations that will last a lifetime.
If you ask three different school officials the purpose of field trips, you will get three different answers. One might say that field trips should serve to supplement school lessons. For example, a class trip to a Civil War battleground can help to add color and depth to a school unit about the Civil War. Another might say that the purpose of a field trip is to inspire the kids. Whether it is a trip to a museum, a factory, or some historic site, it could give students new ideas about what they want to do with their lives. A third school figure might say that field trips are there as a reward for students. On a school trip, the kids get a chance to stretch their legs, associate with each other outside of school, and participate in an activity that is both educational and fun.
In reality, field trips do all of these things. There are many different learning styles, and it can be difficult to accommodate them on a daily basis. A field trip is the only place where all the different learning styles come in to play. On a trip to museum, for example, the more visual people can read all the descriptions on the exhibits. The auditory learners can listen to the tour guide. Those who are more spatial and kinesthetic in their learning styles can be put in the proper frame of mind by the awesome dimensions of the museum and the placement of the different exhibits. In essence, there’s something for everyone.
Even school trips without a clear educational purpose are often a great learning experience. As a matter of fact, the field trip that I remember best was more of a camping trip than anything else. It went to a place called Arkona – a geological Park well known for its fossils. Although we learned a little bit about geology while hunting for trilobites and brachiopods, it was slogging through the muddy river, camping out in the woods, doing a ropes course, And bonding with my friends and teachers that I remember best. I’m not sure I learned things, but I know I grew up a little.