Experiential Learning Through Field Trips In Elementary School & Beyond

contributed by Anne Davis

A child’s educational experience is only a success when the information they’ve been taught has been retained in a manner that allows them to apply it to real life.

Educators can pour out facts, task assignments, and provide guidance in every subject but if students aren’t absorbing this information, it’s seemingly pointless. It is, therefore, the responsibility of educators to utilize various methods of teaching that reaches the minds of their students.

In plain terms, experiential learning is the concept of learning through experiences or by doing. Through this method, students are often taken outside of the traditional learning environment and into scenarios which allow them to develop knowledge, skills, and comprehension of various subjects.

For college students, this form of education comes through activities like internships, work studies, and international travel. Elementary schools, however, sponsor field trips to give their little learners a hands-on experience.

Why Field Trips?

Field trips are great examples of experiential learning. Not only do they provide a way for students to get out of the classroom, but it helps to reinforce what they’re learning in the classroom and peaks their interests in education. Imagine trying to lecture a group of 7 or even 13 years olds on American history. Some will absorb the information, others won’t grasp the concept at all, and, in some cases, students just lose interest.

If these lectures, course readings, class projects, and homework assignments, however, are backed up with an immersive experience like a trip to the museum, the outcome is a lot better. To see the paintings, antique jewelry, sculptures, and other artifacts that have been preserved throughout the years paints a different picture giving them a hands-on experience of what it was like back then and how that shapes the world they live in today.

Field trips are ideal experiential learning opportunities for a number of reasons.

Better Information Retention

In order for students to pay attention to what is being taught the brain needs to be engaged. Which essentially means finding ways to present the information that has meaning enough to result in an emotional response from students. Younger children especially hold onto information best when it is received in a manner that peaks their interests and involves some form of interaction.

Field trips, therefore, can provide a ‘retention-friendly’ atmosphere. There are plenty of opportunities for students to take in exciting information, interact, and socialize amongst their peers and staff. These fun and exciting experiences can then be tied back to classroom lessons and academic concepts to increase the amount of information they retain.

Renewed Sense of Learning

Schools are heavily competing with modern technology which brings with it instant gratification and unlimited access to information about life and the world. As a result, the school has become uninteresting leaving students to question when they’ll ever use things like the laws of physics or need to know how to use formulas like the Pythagorean theorem.

Taking students on field trips to architectural structures, for example, lets them see the importance of learning about geometry and how it can be applied in the future.

Develop Life-Long Skills

Field trips can also be used to help students hone in on their interpersonal skills. When in new environments, students must quickly learn how to adapt to their environment. Fortunately, they tend to do things like paying attention and following instructions a whole lot better on a field trip than they would in the classroom.

As they sit on the bus together, establish a buddy system, and even perform activities throughout their day, students are learning the importance of teamwork. Effective listening and communication skills, adaptability, and teamwork are all skills that can be used in the classroom, at home, and in the office.

Shape Their Future

Experiential learning through field trips can also help to shape the future of students. Perhaps it was that one trip to the wellness center or farmers market that got a student interested in health and wellness. As he or she ages and shifts their studies towards those interests, the skies are the limit as they can study Ayurvedic medicine and start an Ayurvedic spa or become a nutritionist who starts an innovative dieting concept.

The academic environment has to continually evolve as the needs and interests of their students change. Though teaching in the classroom is still a huge part of the educational experience today, it pales in comparison to learning in the real world or through experience. If educators want to continue to provide a positive learning experience for their students it is imperative to utilize experiential learning opportunities like field trips.