This item is being reprinted and is not currently available to purchase.
Please check back later for ordering information.
“The preparation of world problem solvers, actually universal problem solvers” has been deemed the “proper role of environmental education (EE)”. (Engleson & Yockers, 1994). For nearly thirty years, experts and practitioners worldwide have defined basic aims of EE as building in people:
According to the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE), effective EE should:
For Anna, a field trip to the conservation field day can be summed up in one bright memory. “The guy from the Department of Natural Resources picked me, and handed me the net. From the edge of the pond, I dipped the net beneath the water, and swished until I felt the vibration, the fight of a fish. I pulled out a walleye, eyes cloudy like they were filled with milk. I’d never seen one before; it felt so strong.” This memory rests in her mind like the strand from which a strong web is weaved. Protecting your lakes keeps fish healthy! was the theme of this year’s event, and lessons about protecting fish habitat string together in Anna’s mind. Sparked by her memory, she knits together bits about how spreading too much fertilizer contributes to green murky water, storm sewers dump directly into lakes, and washing boats can slow the spread of exotic species. “We studied fish and water pollution at school. But catching that walleye made it more real somehow. It was so strong, fighting like it wanted to be alive,” she continued. “It made me care more about doing something. It made what I learned more important.”
While environmental education does not pronounce a singular “soapbox” ethic, it is “rooted in the belief that humans can live compatibly with nature and act equitably toward one another” (NAAEE, 2000). Essentially, EE is foremost an education of process, focused on helping people vigilantly identify, analyze, and continually adapt to their future environments in ways that we may not yet even imagine.
Field days are one approach to environmental education programming. Recently, the NAAEE (2004) defined an environmental education program to mean “an integrated sequence of planned educational experiences intended to reach a particular set of objectives.” These programs can be long or short and serve a few or many students. Educators employ a number of different approaches or ways of doing environmental education programs, such as service-learning, environmental issues analysis, trail hikes, and residential and nature center visits. When used to meet appropriate objectives, each has its own unique strengths and merits. Field days provide effective means of bridging classroom learning with real-world issues or problems. As an approach, these events stress learning through applied experience, contact with professional experts, and visiting multiple strands of an issue or problem.
Field Days are typically multi-station field trip events in which students and teachers rotate through multiple presentations on environmental topics. They can happen indoors or outdoors for audiences of tens to thousands of students. Four players tend to preside over design and delivery of field days:
Like many field trips, well-designed field days facilitate creation of memories that may help students better understand information learned. These memories often add a positive twist to learning. But field days are also strong in their flexibility. Unlike other EE approaches, they can happen almost anywhere and serve a wide range of audiences. Whether you are designing education programming around agricultural, built, or natural environments, field days may be an appropriate method if you meet all or some of the following criteria:
In accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, this material is available in alternative formats upon request. Please contact your University of Minnesota Extension office or the Extension Store at (800) 876-8636.