This week, we went on our first two field trips of the school year. On Thursday afternoon, our class went with another Kindergarten class on a walking trip to the Public Library, and on Friday morning, our class went with the same class to Eco House. Just as I reflected last year, I realized the potential for learning that can happen on these kinds of trips.
These field trips allowed for …
- the development of oral language skills. Students spoke and listened to each other as they walked to the library. They played with rhyming words as they sang songs and played games on the bus and at Eco House. They developed new vocabulary thanks to the amazing guides at Eco House, and the introduction of new terms with the use of visuals and the hands-on learning experiences that accompanied them.
- learning through The Arts. At both the library and at Eco House, I noticed the number of stories and concepts that were introduced and/or reinforced with the use of Music, Drama, Visual Arts (at Eco House), and/or Dance. I think that The Arts played a big role in the positive way that people responded to this new learning.
- reading in context. On our walk to the library, I noticed the number of students that don’t usually choose books to read, but were reading the signs on the buildings and identifying the letters that they saw. The same was true as they looked out the window of the school bus. This is meaningful reading, and environmental text is so important for beginning readers.
- meaningful math. I was amazed at the amount of math talk that I heard on the school bus yesterday. Students indicated the number of different vehicles that they saw (number sense), the size of different buildings (measurement), and the distance between places (measurement). They even sang counting songs, including Five Little Monkeys Jumping On The Bed, and showed their understanding of number sense and 1:1 correspondence, as they put a finger down for each monkey that fell off of the bed: discussing the new total. On the library trip, I heard many students talking about the distance back to the school (measurement) and the shapes that they saw in various structures (geometry). I only wish that I videotaped all of the great conversations!
- the development of schema. If we want students to really inquire, they have to have something to inquire about. Building schema gives students more background knowledge so that they can make connections, ask questions, and dig deeper into topics of interest. While the children were tired at the end of our busy day yesterday, it was great to hear how much they remembered about the trip to Eco House and how excited they were to share their new learning. I’m excited to see where this learning takes us next week!
I can’t help but think now about our Board’s goal to have “all students reading at grade level by the end of Grade 1” (Early Years Strategy). What do students need to meet this goal? For some schools, I wonder if field trips need to be a part of this strategy. Is this where the authentic learning happens? Is this where we develop and reinforce the literacy skills that will allow us to reach the Board’s goal? I know that the cost of these trips sometimes stop them from happening, especially in the schools where the children may need these experiences the most. Funds are limited. I totally understand this, but I wonder if there’s a way to change this. How might we get the funds? Would investing the money in these field trips — with the teaching and learning that comes out of these experiences — help more children develop the fundamental skills (Oral Language being a key component of this) so that they can reach these reading goals? Sometimes I wish that I could be Ms. Frizzle and make The Magic School Bus our portable classroom. What do you think?