Thursday, 4 December 2014

The Importance of Educational Field Trips to Teaching and Learning

Childhood is the most beautiful of all life's seasons. ~Author Unknown
What was your fondest childhood memory?  Was it hearing the school bell to indicate lunch time? Was your fondest childhood memory spending time in the country and bathing in the river? Perhaps it was going on educational field trips? As schools struggle with budgetary constraints and stretch their human resources to improve test scores in numeracy and literacy it is becoming more difficult to justify taking students out on educational field trips. However, this out of the classroom experience is very vital in the teaching and learning process. Students who are exposed to experiences outside of the classroom often have a more balanced and enriched teaching and learning journey.  Still, too many of our educators are conservative and believe that real teaching and learning can only take place in the confines of a classroom. There is a tendency for some educators to take students on a “reward” field trip to places such as the beach and amusement parks. I fondly remember my grade six teacher at St. Jude’s Primary because of this. We were rewarded for passing the then Common Entrance Examination with a class excursion to the Norman Manley International Airport. For the most part we live in a society where there is an under-utilization of our museums, zoos and other places of culturally significance. It is no wonder our students are so violent given that many of them lacks the culturally exposure that only comes from having a guided experiences outside of the classroom. Added to this many of students do not consider a career in the Arts since this avenue is rarely  presented to them as a viable career option given the misconception the wider society has regarding opportunities in the Arts. Successive governments and corporate Jamaica over the years have given very little support in supporting the Arts.  Sadly, many of our practitioners in this field continue to find it challenging to earn a living solely from their participation in the Arts. A significant number of our students have never been to the National Gallery, or the Institute of Jamaica Museum, nor the Hope Botanical Garden commonly refer to as Hope Gardens or even the museum at the Bank of Jamaica. As a result we now have a culturally deficient society that is more aware of cultures and practices outside of the Jamaican experience. Many of our students lack the knowledge of their history more so since the teaching of History is optional in most of our schools.  The nature of culturally enriching field trips is that they are often to places that students do not yet know and as such they might enjoy visiting. Culturally enriching field trips have significant educational benefits for students. Among these benefits are greater levels of tolerance for others, to foster a level of historical empathy, an increase in knowledge as well as supporting critical thinking.  Field trips or educational tours provide children with hands on learning experience which is invaluable. We live in fast changing world where information is readily available just by the click of a mouse. However, when we facilitate our students to visit places of educational value and significance they discover for themselves and enrich the teaching and learning process that no textbook could have provided for them.  
According to Dr. Trevor Forbes, a Jamaican born, United States based psychiatrist, “field trips add to the cultural enrichment of students, field trips open up a student’s perspective to the world outside of their created boundaries”.
Additionally, when students go together on a particular field trip, it gives them an opportunity to socialize with each other. Educational field trips provide a great way of promoting team spirit among our students which is a necessary skill which will become extremely useful in the work place. Field trips are great ways for teachers to make students understand that learning can be a fun filled activity. When students are exposed to different subjects in a practical way, they start generating interest in it. Despite the challenges associated with planning and executing any educational trip, the benefits clearly outweighs such difficulties. Our educational institutions need to incorporate this strategy more as they move forward in educating the nation’s children.
All that is valuable in human society depends upon the opportunity for development accorded the individual. - Albert Einstein
Wayne Campbell is an educator and social commentator with an interest in development policies as they affect culture and or gender issues.