Both of these articles argue that it is important for teachers to take learning out of the formal/traditional “sit still and listen while I vomit information at you” approach and spend more time in informal settings, whether that be through field trips, extended/open-ended projects, or classroom discourse.
Braund & Reiss argue for teachers to take science learning from being something done exclusively in the classroom and laboratory sessions and into the students’ real worlds through field trips to museums, zoos, botanical gardens, etc., extended practical work out of the classroom, and access to “big” science. They argue that this approach helps students learn by increasing their motivation, showing them that science is more than what they see presented in the classroom and making it relevant to them.
- Their main caveat is that students must come to the experience prepared to learn – what they call the education and entertainment motivations. Here, I think, is the role for the teacher. We ought to ensure that students see the field trip or practical work as an opportunity to learn, structuring it into the learning sequence rather than tacking it on at the end. An example of this from my undergraduate career is in my evolution class, as part of our studies into how changes in genes or gene expression during development can drastically change the final form of the organism, we were asked to go to the local natural history museum (free admission for UF students) and pick 2 organisms said to be closely related evolutionarily that look very different and hypothesize how and why they may have diverged.
- My main question about the field trips especially, but also to an extent the extended projects, is what about the schools that don't have the resources to afford it?