When planned thoughtfully, field trips are very important and powerful learning experiences that can have a transformative effect on student inquiry. By being mindful of the following points, we can ensure that field trips are as meaningful and effective as possible.
- There is a clear and powerful purpose to the trip, with clear links between the concepts that will be explored and curriculum needs
- The field trip experience should stimulate inquiry and a richer understanding of the current unit of study
- The location has been selected specifically with learning in mind
- The impact of our students on the location and people there has been considered and catered for, e.g. by going one class at a time
- The trip will be timed to maximise learning opportunities for the students, giving students the chance to engage fully and soak up the experiences being offered
- Opportunities and locations for briefing students, reflecting, rest, drinking water or having a snack have been identified and planned for
- Plans have been made to enable students to capture learning meaningfully during the trip
- Attitudes and behaviour have been discussed with students beforehand to ensure they are in the best mood to make the most of the experience and to represent the school
- Additional adults are considered not only in terms of safety but also enriching student experience – smaller groups may mean more powerful learning
- Steps have been taken to make sure trips are environmentally responsible – this kind of modelling is very powerful for students
- There are varied and meaningful follow-up experiences planned so that the trip was worthwhile
We are going to introduce these points in our school as a checklist for teachers to go through when planning field trips. If they are unable to tick off most (or all) of these points… the trip may not be worth it!
By Paul Dunbar, IB Literature and Theory of Knowledge Teacher
Time and space are the dimensions we live in.
As a literature teacher, my field is narrative, and I point out to my students that all stories must take place in time and space, just as our lives do. A story is not a photograph, but a movie. Narrative is a linear form: it takes time to tell a story, and time within the story must also elapse, though not at the same rate that it passes outside of the story. Likewise, a story must occur in space – it is very difficult to imagine a story that does not have a setting of some kind, that does not take place somewhere. Place is the performance space the characters will occupy.
All of that is rather obvious, of course, but it points us to the most fundamental questions the storyteller has to engage with. How will I handle time in telling this story? And how will I create space?
In formulating these two questions, I’m not sure I have the verbs right. The idea of ‘handling’ time for instance – is it possible to touch time with your hands? Isn’t that a bit like putting your hands in water and saying that you’re ‘handling’ the water? To handle implies being able to encompass and direct something with your hands – money, for instance, or food. Is it a bit arrogant to speak of ‘handling’ time? And ‘creating’ space?
But the storyteller – the novelist, the film-maker, the poet, the graphic novelist – must do exactly that: create worlds, populate them, fold and unfold sequences of events within them. If your narrative fails to create an imagined space – a storyworld – which the reader can enter, it will be just words on a page.
And if that space is not filled with the invisible, dynamic flows of time, your audience will not be engaged.
So is teaching a kind of storytelling?
Yes! And I mean that not metaphorically but quite literally. Teaching isn’t like storytelling – it is storytelling.
If your students look forward to your class, they do so for the same reasons that they look forward to the next installment of a story. (Something might happen in the class which will carry the plot forward. Or not!)
The idea of a course as a narrative and the teacher as a narrator is not just a fancy metaphor. The parallel can have a profound, empowering and literal truth for a teacher, and I’d like to take the idea forward in future posts. If as a teacher you accept that you are a storyteller, not a social engineer, a programmer or a bureaucrat, suddenly there is a great deal you can learn from the art of narrative.
I suppose the first thing to learn is that what you are doing is as full of creative possibilities and challenges as telling a story, whether in the form of a novel, a film, a comic-book, or any of the myriad other forms of narrative. And the first of these possibilities and challenges are:
How will I handle time?
How will I create space?
Please click the hyperlink just above this and take a look at the Powerpoint before reading the rest of this!
This Powerpoint was made as part of my daughter’s homework during a unit of inquiry about living things that we share our community with. We simply went for a walk down a nearby street in central Bangkok and I took whatever photos Ruby told me to take. When we got home, we put it together and she told me what to type on each slide.
As you can see, there are countless opportunities for further inquiry that emerged from the simple provocation of going for a walk and looking. Given the chance and the guidance, Ruby could have taken one or more of her questions, confusions and observations further.
Kids are already as curious as we allow them to be. We don’t really need to over-think our provocations… if we are genuinely leading students towards “real-world learning” then our provocations lie in the real world! Students need to learn the vital skills of looking, seeing, noticing, recording and then figuring out what interests them the most.
It then becomes our job to help them navigate their curriculum in a way that remains true to their initial curiosities.
Most educators agree with almost everything that Sir Ken Robinson says. But, how many of us fight tooth and nail to make what he says become a reality in our classrooms and schools? We laugh at his jokes, nod meaningfully at his nuggets of wisdom and shake our heads mournfully at his painful truths. But, what do we do about any of it?
This is his latest piece of brilliance. As he speaks, think carefully… what lessons have we learned from him and are we actually making them happen?
The skills and talents that students develop in their specialist lessons should come back into the homeroom and be explored further as a means of expression for their learning. This is particularly true during the PYP Exhibition, but is actually equally true for any unit of inquiry.
Naturally embedding the curriculum is difficult no matter how much experience you have. Most teachers find it difficult. In the beginning of the year we introduced Passion Projects – a way to give students time to work on something they like doing and has meaning to them. Using the PYP framework we would then sit with students and have a conversation about how the 5 PYP elements naturally connected to what they were doing. This was so useful we started to do it with every student and recorded their conversations. Not only did the students have better clarity and vision, it also deepened our understanding too. Moreover, it showed us the power in learning something that the students had control over and how natural learning took place in a whole new light. It moved our knowledge forward of the PYP. The students also know what they are talking about instead of just regurgitating the PYP lingo. More on this later…
A really big part of the “bubble up” curriculum is putting the PYP subjects and strands in student language. This empowers them to know what they are talking about. A group of our students did this and then created the above document. Students need to know what each strand means if they are going to be deciding whether it connects to their learning or not. Very useful when students take control of their learning. They will then have to justify not only the “what” but the “why!” Why does this connect to my learning. Now we have movement which deepens understanding and empowers learning!
It is extremely powerful to change classrooms in order to reflect the kind of learning that is taking place at the time. So, for example, they become art studios during creative units, science labs during scientific units, museums during historical ones and so on. Students should be encouraged to think about how their physical space can enhance learning and how it can be adapted to help them do their best.
These two are designing and building race tracks for model cars, like Hot Wheels. They feel there are not enough “non-sport” options for the kids in the school and that many of them will love racing cars on their tracks. They have been amazingly engaged by their project as they’ve been working on design and construction all year as part of their Passion Project.