Give them a role
One way to increase student involvement is to give them a real role. On one outing, we asked our students to step into the role of reporter for a news organization. They were given press passes (which on the back included their field trip assignment, bus number, chaperone, etc.) and a reporter's notebook. They gathered information about the field trip, knowing that they were creating either a newspaper article, a video news report, or a radio story about the trip. The engagement level skyrocketed. Students caught details in their notebooks and asked clarifying questions. Extra bonus: it involved choice. Students selected what mattered most to them and they could choose a variety of mediums in which to showcase their learning.
Turn to tech
On our most recent field trip to downtown Washington, DC, we asked kids to bring their cell phones. We gave them a list of things that they would see on the field trip and asked them to take selfies with these people and places. We explained that these photos would be shared on a Padlet for the class. When we got back from the field trip the kids scanned a QR code and uploaded their pics to our class Padlet which ended up serving as a record of the trip for every participant to view. It was fantastic seeing the trip from so many different perspectives. Instead of just taking in information, students connected with it by finding the perfect image. I really believe that when they are older, they will remember this day through these photos and that's what I want. When they hear a story about Congress, the Supreme Court, or the White House I want them to be able to connect with it -- to say in their minds I've been there and I know what that place looks like and feels like.
A few caveats -- we knew that not everyone would have a phone, but enough of our students would; we allowed them to double and triple up (appearing in the same photos). Also, we put an Administrator role on the Padlet that allowed us to approve the photos before they went up on the site. Perhaps as important, the site is available only to those with the link and doesn't require a username or password for students who are posting. If you are working with younger students, you could ask parents to bring cell phones and have them snap photos with their groups. Older students could be asked to share folders on open social media sites using a field trip hashtag.
Blog about it
Another way to get students engaged is to use a blogging platform, such as Edublogs or Weebly for Education, and ask students to write about their experiences. Give students three or four questions in advance that they will be blogging about. For example:
Flip the script with Flipgrid
Another way to engage students is to use Flipgrid. Flipgrid allows for an entire group of people to discuss questions in a video format using 60 second video responses. All you need is a phone or computer with a video camera. Set up a series of questions (I would give these to the students prior to the field trip so they have some focus) and then ask them to film video responses and post to Flipgrid. Require students to answer all of the questions (probably three at the most and fewer for younger kids) and then also ask them to record a comment to at least one other student. Like Padlet, you can moderate the videos if you'd like before they are posted. Also, you can keep the Flipgrid private so you don't have to worry about it being open to the world. Caveat -- students will be prompted to provide their first and last name when they post. We simply have them type their first name and then use X as their last name so that their personal information isn't on the grid. The grid provides a great record of the trip for students.
Gamify your trip
Another fun idea is to task the students with turning their field trip into a board game or card game. Before the trip have them brainstorm of elements that make a good game. During the trip small groups can gather questions and answers as they learn. Be sure to give them a graphic organizer to collect questions and answers while they are out in the field. Then they can design a game board based on the trip complete with questions or tasks. Set aside time for kids to play one another's games as a review activity. This gives students a lot of room to create, communication, and collaborate.
We hope these ideas spark your field trip planning. Do you have strategies that promote student engagement on field trips? The BubbleUp community would love to hear from you!
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