Sunday, May 8, 2011

Earth Place-A Dream Field Trip for Emergent Learners

We had a fantastic field trip this week to Earth Place in Westport. Becky is the naturalist there and she always does a terrific job. What I appreciated most was her flexibility. I have said before that planning field trips with emergent curriculum is often difficult as there isn’t a lot of notice. An interest arises in the class and you try and capitalize on that as soon as possible.

My class had certain questions and things they wanted to see. They wanted to see a bee hive, a tarantula and water bugs. Earth Place has a standard insect class that they give children Pre-K through 2nd grade. It does not include all of these things. It is still an engaging program, but wouldn’t have suited all of our needs. Sometimes a program on a certain topic is only offered to older children. I loved when I called one museum to see if they would adapt one of their workshops for my class and the man said, “we do that for second graders, hopefully they will still be interested when they are in second grade.” When I called Becky, she told me what the class offered, but added that she would be happy to walk us down to the pond to dredge for water bugs and she did indeed have a tarantula she would bring out. The bee hive connected to the museum was not working, but she would walk us to the manager’s house on the property and show us some other hives. I knew this was the place for us.

So despite a week of rain, we all put on our rain boots and made our way to the Nature Center. The trip was great. We looked at insects in all different stages of their development; eggs, larvae, pupas and adults.

We pet giant hissing cockroaches, met a tarantula up close, held meal worms and built a model of an insect.

 We walked through the woods to a pond where Becky dredged through the water to find mosquito larvae, a baby dragonfly, tadpoles and yes, a water bug!

On the walk back we saw the working hives and touched a honeycomb seeing the honey inside.

All along the way, we saw insects and animals interacting in their natural environments. This was the way to learn!

If you are using emergent curriculum or the project approach in your classrooms it would be worth it to make connections with the various naturalists in your area.  Educate them on the kind of curriculum your students are engaged in and how they are learning and investigating.  Encourage them to become partners with you and the children.  Bring your questions and webs with you on field trips, so they can see the thinking of the children and use it for their program.  There are teachers who aren't comfortable taking their students outside in the various elements and they tend to tailor their programs for these groups.  Let them know you will come dressed for being outside.  Our two best trips this year were in the deep snow and just after a rain storm. 

What other tips can you share for going on trips with emergent learners?

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