You Say Tomato, I Say Field Study
If you have heard us talk about our students’ “field trips” recently, you may have noticed that we try to exchange the word “trip” with “study” or “experience,” or even used the term “field work.” Words matter, they send specific messages in our educational culture. The phrase field trip is predominately used when describing experiential learning. But “field trip” sounds close to going on a fun excursion as opposed to doing the work of real world learning.
Today, our kindergartners went “into the field” to do the serious work of researchers. They are currently studying the different aspects of what makes a community and traveled to the Moraga Fire Station. At the station, they interviewed the firemen about the different roles they play in our community. They discovered that a fireman not only puts out fires but helps with medical emergencies, educate citizens, as well as participates in activities that bring our community closer. While I am sure the students had fun (engaged learning is fun), make no doubt about it, the students were doing the work of researchers in the field.
Next week, our 8th graders head to Washington D.C. to do field work. Their objective is to understand how D.C. represents American cultural values. They have been doing research over the past two weeks in order to do a real world investigation of their driving question. To understand their question at a deeper level, they will be examining artifacts, hearing from experts, as well as learning from each other.
In the case of both the 8th graders and the kindergartners, students are doing the serious work of researchers. They are investigating, talking with experts, reflecting and revising their understanding. In other words, they are approaching learning like graduate students. Which is why we prefer the phrase “field experience” or “field study” to field trip as they more accurately describe the serious nature of the work our students do.