The Power of a School Field Trip!

Do you remember your first school field trip? Where did you go? Maybe it was a zoo, a museum, or a camping trip? As I get older, I often ‘revisit’ these trips while thinking about our own education programmes at the Marine Education Centre. How can we make our field trips as memorable as mine were for me?

The memories are at times rather vague, but I recall certain experiences, like the time we built a raft at a nature reserve and used it to cross a small lake, or the time we visited a castle, and there was a medieval performance. At the time, the excitement of a school trip would be the talk of the class, it was a day we were out of the classroom and exploring the world. The one thing I can still strongly recall is that feeling of excitement, I still pass that lake where we built a raft and as an adult, I still get that warm and happy feeling I got when I was 10 years old. It is also funny to think that the most memorable trips for me were the ones that either involved nature or learning about history. These are both the fields I battled between when choosing my career path, history or zoology, the animals won but I am an avid reader, and my books are often historical, and I love to spend an afternoon watching a good history documentary.  

Of course, fields trips are not the sole reason I do what I do, but it certainly had an important influence. We do not expect every student or child that visits us at the centre to suddenly decide they want to work with wildlife or nature, but if we can increase their understanding, empathy, and passion for nature, then in my eyes this is a big win. But why are field trips so influential and memorable? Well, I have always felt they are a powerful educational tool from my own experience, but don’t take my word for it, there have been many studies that have come to the same conclusion.

Firstly, learning mostly happens in the classroom, and in many circumstances is theory based, experiments can be set up to demonstrate these theories, but this is not always feasible. In addition, as humans, theory based learning is not enough, we need to actually experience it to get a more rounded understanding, and to also place the foundations needed for us to remember these lessons in the long term. Our world is a classroom, and it is important that students step out and access this amazing resource.

Students on a field trip to the Marine Education Centre, counting the trash they have collected on the beach and calculating how much plastic there is.

Field trips give students the opportunity to connect what they learnt in the classroom to the real world. Real-world learning or experiences provide students with the skills to begin solving real-life problems, ultimately shaping them as individuals as they grow. Each of these experiences contributes to their understanding of how the world works!

Studies have shown that field trips improve test scores! This alone makes an incredibly strong case as to why field trips are so important in our children’s development. Field trips have the ability to provide hands on learning experiences, which in turn makes concepts more memorable. It also provides students with opportunities to learn about topics in various ways, because let’s face it, not all students learn in the same way. Students who do not excel in a classroom setting may excel when taken out of the classroom, finding it easier to learn through these experiences instead. It also provides students with experiences they may not get at home, or when compared to other students in their class. Every student will come from a different community or economic level, but on a field trip every student gets to experience it regardless of their background.

Students working in teams to research marine animals at the Marine Education Centre.

My final point is the power these field trips can have on socio-emotional growth. Students who go on field trips have been found to have increased empathy, critical thinking skills and tolerance when compared to students who do not. Field trips provide students with the opportunity to see a topic from a different perspective.

To put this in context to our work, we can honestly say that we have witnessed these changes in the students we work with. Teachers report an increase in student confidence after field trips, this being through students volunteering more often to answer questions, showing confidence in speaking about certain topics, and some going as far as organising community clean ups, or writing songs and poems about their experience. We have also had students visit us who have NEVER even seen their own beach, only living 40 minutes away, but never getting the opportunity to visit the beautiful and famous Diani beach, along with its beautiful coastal forests. We have to ask; how can we expect our communities to protect something they have never experienced? At the Conservation Education Society, we strive to make field trips both free and accessible to all schools in our area. We know that many local schools struggle to find the funds to pay their own teachers and provide additional resources to students, so we work hard to fund these vital trips, that in the long run will help both the teachers and students in our communities.

We would like to ask for your help by sharing this blog with your friends and family, but also to help by sponsoring a school trip, or by supporting our Sea Turtle Festival, which will be held next year. In 2019, we were able to bring nearly 200 students for this special day of fun activities, we were able to fund the transport, and provide a free lunch, which we will continue to do for every festival going forward. Your donation, whether it is big or small, will make a real difference to the learning experiences of these students!

A ‘sea turtle’ egg and spoon race that took place at the Diani Sea Turtle Festival.

For further information, you can contact Kelly Martin on k.martin@ces-kenya.org.

Links to our fundraising pages and sponsorship packages are below;

  1. https://www.globalgiving.org/projects/engaging-kenyan-youths-in-conservation/
  2. https://ceskenya.org/product/sponsor-a-school-trip-to-the-marine-education-centre/
  3. https://ceskenya.org/programs/education-programmes/

If you would like to read more on this, please check out these articles;

Kelly Martin is the co-founder of the Conservation Education Society, based in Diani, Kenya. Kelly received her undergrad in Zoology from Liverpool John Moore’s University and a Masters in Primate Conservation from Oxford Brookes University. She has been living in Kenya for 5 years.

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