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: Provide learners with a clear advance organizer near the beginning of your presentation.
How can you set the stage for learners to make the most of their precious time at your presentation? How can you provoke them to actively seek, collect and make sense of the important ideas and information you teach? One important answer is advance organizers.
Participants in our new Best Practices for Field Days Observation Assessment Tool workshops learn to watch for clear advance organizers near the beginning of field day and water festival presentations. They learn to look for presenters asking leading questions like "Would you drink this water?" or "What does your home need for you to live in it?" They look for presenters using music or smells to pull learners into their presentations, or presenters who list a few things that learners will take away from their stations. They watch for presenters who use charts that help learners categorize information like different kinds of fishes, soils or clouds. According to an article by Callison: "The advance organizer sets the stage for a new experience-one that can be linked to experiences brought to the situation by the students." Like spooky music during a horror movie, these are the cues for learners that capture attention and unveil what is coming.
With a little searching, you can find useful advance organizers.
Advance organizers can be leading questions, charts, stories and a variety of other tools that help learners anticipate the important details of a presentation, organize, and effectively connect these with what they already know. Visit the SCORE, North Central Regional Educational Laboratory and TeacherVision websites for rich sources of ideas and templates for advance organizers. Then try out one of the following basic styles of advance organizer in your next field day or water festival presentation:
- Expository organizers help learners organize or categorize ideas, facts or details. These kinds of organizers are often recommended for teaching material you think is completely unfamiliar to learners. Imagine, for instance, delivering a field day presentation on soils. You could present a chart or worksheet during your introduction that describes four elements that roughly compose soils - rocks and minerals, organic material, water, and air. These can then become the attributes through which your learners explore and categorize different soil samples during the presentation. Your organizer provokes them to consistently ask the important questions like: Is this soil low or high in organic material? Water?
- Comparative organizers help learners relate new material to already familiar ideas. They are usually recommended for teaching information that you know relates closely to things learners already understand. They may also work well for helping learners differentiate ideas, facts or details they might otherwise recognize as the same. Imagine exploring streams with learners who already studied lakes in their class or an earlier field day presentation. In this case, you might ask them to help you fill-in a Venn diagram that helps them realize how streams are similar and different from lakes. Both you and your learners can then refer periodically to this diagram throughout the presentation - adding, subtracting and correcting their initial perceptions.
Once you've chosen a basic style, it's easy to get started.
Visit the Apple Learning Interchange to see videos of teachers using a variety of advance organizers. No matter which you choose as more appropriate for your presentation, it is useful to follow Joyce and Weil's three-step procedure to effectively use your organizer:
- Set the stage for learning at your presentation. Introduce and engage learners with the advance organizer near the beginning of your presentation. Describe its key features and the context for using it. Try it out with a few examples, and use it to ask questions that elicit your learners' related knowledge and experience.
- Integrate the organizer throughout your presentation. Make sure it is a consistent focus for how learners think about and experience your presentation. Clearly connect your material to the organizer throughout the presentation.
- Return to the organizer near the end of your presentation. Review and clarify the key ideas behind your organizer. Ask your learners to answer any leading questions you asked them. Ask them to re-summarize the points they should take away from your presentation. Imagine with your learners some real-world situations where they these points may be important for them to recall and use.
It is apparent that this process for using advance organizers follows closely the experiential learning cycles that we have suggested you use in a previous EE E-Tip. The reasons for using advance organizers are also similar to our calls for effective themes. These kinds of related procedures and tools work together to effectively help your learners make the most of their limited time in your presentations through efficiently seeking, relating and applying the ideas you teach. They can also help them effectively store and retrieve these ideas when later useful.
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.
Learn more about evaluating field days and water festivals with the Best Practices for Field Days Observation Assessment Tool online.
To learn more about the Best Practices for Field Days, read our short article in the online Journal of Extension, Structuring Your Event for Fun and Learning
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.
Apple Learning Interchange. (2003). Advanced organizers. Opening Classroom Doors: Teaching Methods.
Ausubel, D.P. (1960). The use of advance organizers in the learning and retention of meaningful verbal material. Journal of Educational Psychology, 51(5), 267-272.
Ausubel, D.P. (1978). In defense of advance organizers. Review of Educational Research, 48(2), 251-257.
Callison, D. (2000). Organizers. School Library Media Activities Monthly.
Kalmes, M.W. (2002). The advance organizer. Edu 462: Methods in Secondary Social Science.
North Central Regional Educational Laboratory. (1988). Graphic Organizers.
Schools of California Online Resources for Education (SCORE). (n.d.). Graphic Organizers.
Story, C.M. (1998). What instructional designers need to know about advance organizers. International Journal of Instructional Media, 25(3), 252-261.
TeacherVision. (n.d.) Graphic Organizers.
The Northeast Texas Network Consortium. (n.d.) Creating and Using Advance Organizers for Distance Learning.
Wikipedia. (n.d.). Advance organizer.
Wikipedia. (n.d.). David Ausubel.
Wikipedia. (n.d.). Five Ws.
Wikipedia. (n.d.). Venn diagram.