A CASE STUDY OF URBAN STUDENT AND TEACHER EXPERIENCES SURROUNDING AN OUTDOOR ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE FIELD TRIP
Preusch, Peggy Louise
van Zee, Emily H
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Field trips provide opportunities for students to experience many different contexts beyond the classroom, and are a popular choice of K-12 teachers in the US. Recent interest in learning that occurs at informal science education centers such as museums, zoos and aquariums has stimulated studies of the relationship between learning in and outside of schools. Although many studies focus on the teachers, the contexts, and/or the students during the field trip, only a few look at the entire process of learning by including the classroom setting before and after the field trip. This study was designed to develop understandings of the student process of learning during and surrounding an environmental science field trip to an outdoor setting. John Dewey's extensive writings on the relationship between experience and learning informed the analysis, creating a focus on active and passive elements of the experience, continuity within and across contexts, the interactive nature of the experience and the importance of subject matter. An exploration of environmental education (EE), environmental science (ES), and nature study as content revealed the complexities of the subject matter of the field trip that make its presentation problematic. An urban school was chosen to contribute to the research literature about urban student learning in outdoor environments. During the field trip, the students' active engagement with each other and the environment supported meaningful remembrances of the field trip experiences during interviews after the field trip. The students accurately described plants and animals they had observed in different habitats during the field trip. They also made connections with their home life and prior experiences in the outdoors as they discussed the field trip and drew pictures that represented their experiences. One student integrated his outdoor experience with a language arts assignment as he reflected deeply on the field trip. One implication of this study is that educational experiences in outdoor natural environments are complex in ways that contribute to lack of continuity between science lessons in an elementary classroom and environmental science field trip. Long term relationships between schools and informal settings that recognize the strengths of both contexts in terms of student learning processes surrounding field trip experiences are needed to strengthen the educative process for field trip participants.