Best Practices for Field Days E-Tips for Environmental Educators
Welcome to this edition of the EE E-Tip for Field Days - the quarterly source for practical tips to raise the impact of field day programs. We want to hear your suggestions for improving this resource. Send your ideas to Nate Meyer.
EE E-Tip: Use experiential learning cycles to structure your field day presentation.
Try following a backward design process to help students learn through experience in your field day presentations. "To begin with the end in mind" is how researchers Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe suggest you accomplish this.
Ask yourself the following questions to guide planning of your next field day presentation:
- How do I expect my students to think or behave differently after my presentation? What is the essential question that I want them to be able to answer? How will my presentation be meaningful to their day-to-day lives?
- So, what are the 1-2 key ideas and/or skills that I really want students to generalize and be able to use in their lives after my presentation? (NOTE you should be able to observe and/or test these kinds of things.)
- So, what kinds of questions or group discussion will really help my students learn from each other and draw these generalizations?
- So, what kind of student-driven, hands-on experience(s) will provide my students the stuff necessary to have these discussions and answer these questions?
Then build your presentation plan in the flip-flop order by beginning with your experience, facilitating student learning through your questions and discussion - supporting students in making generalizations, and finally answering the essential questions, practicing thinking and behaving differently.
Education theorists like David A. Kolb have promoted for years the importance of personal experience as the source for learning. In fact, Kolb famously defined learning as the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience. Stephan Carlson and Sue Maxa from the University of Minnesota have described this learning process:
"Providing an experience alone does not create experiential learning. Experiences lead to learning if the individual understands what happened, sees that patterns of observation emerge, draws generalizations from those observations, and understands how to use the generalizations again in a new situation."
Although theorists have developed many experiential learning cycles, we include in our Field Day Planning Guidebook the 5-stage Experiential Learning Model used commonly in 4-H Youth Development programs. This model involves:
- Experience: Introduce and allow students to complete an activity. Don't get overly involved; allow them to make their own discoveries.
- Share: Ask students to describe what they did, learned, and felt during the activity. Don't guide this discussion. All discoveries should be equally considered.
- Process: Have students identify common threads of the experience. Ask them to determine what was most important about the experience.
- Generalize: Ask students the personal question, So what? How is the experience meaningful to students' lives? What information could they use in their own lives?
- Apply: Have students apply the skills gained from the experience in a new situation. Ask them to describe how they can use what they have learned.
By working through the backward design process and asking yourself the guiding questions, you are preparing to support students through these processes of transforming experience into knowing. This will help you avoid the possibility of simply providing an experience that does not translate into learning.
For more information on using effective teaching methods for field day presentations, review the Use Experiential Teaching Methods section of the Best Practices for Field Days: A Program Planning Guidebook for Organizers, Presenters, Teachers and Volunteers - pages 61 to 73. Curriculum copies, workshop and other information are available online at Best Practices for Field Days website.
To learn more about the Best Practices for Field Days, read our short article in the online Journal of Extension.
Best Practices for Field Days is a University of Minnesota Extension program. The information given in this publication is for educational purposes only. Reference to commercial products or trade names is made with the understanding that no discrimination is intended and no endorsement by the University of Minnesota Extension is implied.
Carlson, S. (1998). Learning by doing and the youth- driven model.
Carlson, S., & Maxa, S. (1998). Pedagogy applied to nonformal education.
Greenway, R. (2008). Experiential Learning Cycles.
Kolb, D.A. (1984). The process of experiential learning. Chapter 2. Experiential Learning: Experience as the Source of Learning and Development.
Dasher, S, Enfield, R. P. , Marzolla, A. M., Ponzio, R. C., Schmitt-McQuitty, L., & Smith, M.H. (2005). Experiential Learning Resources.
Wiggins, G., & McTighe, J. (1998). Chapter 1. What Is Backward Design? Understanding by Design.
Wikipedia. (n.d.). David A. Kolb.