Common Core v. field experience?

There is increasing pressure on teachers to take virtual field trips. It’s cost-effective, the argument goes, and technology can replace the real thing leaving more time for Common Core.

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I disagree. My students are more engaged, develop inquiry skills, and extend their learning when they can be on site working with experts.

I’m not talking about field trips that are ONLY about having fun. Learning should be fun, of course, but should available funds pay for trips to amusement parks?

In my class we go on “learning experiences,” not “field trips,” and they are exactly that—learning outside the classroom walls with the exact same expectations I have inside the classroom.

Books, films, cartoons . . .

For instance, I aim to take my students to visit the Roosevelt sites every year.

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I prepare them—and follow up—with books, documents, film footage, and recordings, to complicate their understanding of Pearl Harbor, The Four Freedoms, Eleanor Roosevelt, and more.

We may, for example, look at political cartoons and discuss their messages. We talk about how to interpret them and why they exist.

This IS Common Core. Take a look at NYSED’s social studies core curriculum you’ll find several references to using political cartoons.

Last year our trip focused on Eleanor Roosevelt. The documents provided the day we visited Val-Kill were perfect! Students learned to pull out information and use it to understand Mrs. R’s role in history.

This, too, is Common Core, which is filled with references to the importance of being able to read and interpret primary sources, i.e., the kind of documents available at many historical sites in our region. Just be sure to ask when arranging your visit!

Discuss, debate, digest


At the Presidential Library my students have seen items mentioned in their readings. I observe them reading markers, discussing the information they garnered, and comparing it with what they had read or talked about in my classroom.

Again, this IS Common Core. Primary and secondary sources are integral to CC.

My students bring field journals and are expected to make notes. I ask the docents and educators to include a quiet period for reflective writing and make sure we share and discuss their writing on site or after we’ve returned to school.

Yes, this is also Common Core.

Discussion and debate extends learning experiences: Are there differences between what we read in class and what we see on site? If there are, can they be resolved? Why do these differences exist? And on, and on.

One year my students were so intrigued by an exhibit on Mrs. Roosevelt in the museum that they asked me to purchase books about the first lady, FDR’s dog Fala, and Amelia Earhart, from the book store (Of course, they really had to twist my arm! Not!) We used our visit and the books as the foundation for a study of the women’s rights movement. When my focus is science, I follow a similar protocol.

Wow, I am really proselytizing and it’s not even Sunday! OK, maybe I was long winded, but this has been on my mind for quite some time. Enough for now! What do you think?

Paying for field experiences

A growing number of community foundations, along with Donors Choose, Target, and others make field trip grants.

Closer to home, THV makes Explore Awards linking free professional development with field experience grants.

Want to visit Hyde Park? THV manages Bus on Us grants, offered by the National Park Service and National Archives, to underwrite transportation costs.

Photos of students visiting Hyde Park by Bill Urbin, Roosevelt-Vanderbilt National Historic Sites.