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How-To: Teach Elementary Science

Why are Field Trips so Important to Science Education?
Natasha Cooke-Nieves

The main role of the Field Trip is to provide direct learning experiences with concrete phenomena and materials – either collected artifacts or interactive exhibits. The primary instructional strategy should be hands-on/minds-on activities, where the student (and the teacher!) is engaged in things that he/she would not normally be able to do in a regular classroom or lab.


Field Trips serve as opportunities for:

             ☻ Self-Guided Learning
             ☻ Discovery
             ☻ First-Hand Experience
             ☻ Cognitive Learning
             ☻ Affective Learning


 The Teacher’s  role in planning a field trip is to:

  1. Familiarize yourself with the setting
  2. Orient students to the agenda, setting, and learning objectives.
  3. Plan and conduct  ‘pre-visit’ lesson plan/activities aligned to curriculum to build prior knowledge
  4. Pack up and GO...safely!!
  5. Plan and conduct ‘during visit’ lesson plan/activities…but leave time for students to explore on their own or in groups
  6. Plan and conduct ‘post-visit’ lesson plan/activities aligned to curriculum to reinforce the out-of-school learning experience…allow time for students to share with peers 

The Student’s role in preparing for a field trip is to be:

  1. Cognitively prepared – students should be familiar with the assignment and the directions that they will be asked to follow on the trip.
  2. Geographically prepared – students should have seen a picture of where they are going and any points of interests that will be highlighted on the trip tour.
  3. Psychologically prepared – students should be prepared for what they should expect to see; what kind of event will occur; and who they will interact with (i.e. peers, tour guide, animals)

‘Pre-Visit’ Lesson

‘During Visit’ Lesson

‘Post- Visit’ Lesson

Using content and inquiry, how would you help your class prepare for what they were going to see?
Review any educational or online resources the exhibit has (i.e. http://amnh.org/education/resources/index.php) Pinpoint the exhibit’s geographical context and relevant vocabulary.

What activity would you do with your class while at the museum?
For example, provide a sample worksheet with questions about specific exhibits, specimens, sites, display cases, models, videos, or tour guide points of interests/highlighted stops

When your class returns to school, what follow-up activity would do to gauge your students’ conceptual understanding?
What type of artifact-project, web quest, report, essay, would be used to assess student understanding?




Worksheets should:

  • Encourage observation
  • Allow time for observation
  • Refer to objects rather than labels
  • Be clear and unambiguous about to where to find information
  • Encourage talk between group members
  • Questions or comments? E-mail me.


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