While virtual learning has been implemented to keep students and staff safe during the pandemic, teachers and school systems are actively working to help ensure the learning experience is still as rewarding as possible. One program that’s been developed with this in mind is the Fairfax County Park Authority’s “Field Trips for All” program.
“The “Field Trips for All” programs are nature center and historic site field trips that cover science and social studies for elementary grades,” the Park Authority announced on its website. “Park naturalists and historians have been working with Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) curriculum coordinators to create programs that link directly to the essential standards that FCPS teachers will be teaching.”
Whether it’s the “life in historic Virginia” events being held at the Sully Plantation site, the astronomy programs discussing the solar system at the Hidden Pond Nature Center, or one of the other programs on a variety of topics taking place all over the county, there are plenty of opportunities that cover science and social studies related topics and have been developed with elementary school aged students. A full list of the events can be seen on the county’s website.
Field trips are often one of the more exciting parts of the year for students even during non-pandemic times and they often provide a way to reinforce lessons being learned in the classroom by offering a different perspective and more of a hands on experience. But given how social distancing recommendations have often meant kids don’t get to see their fellow students as often or receive some of the other benefits in person learning can provide, the “Field Trips for All” programs are arguable a much needed lifeline for families right now.
“Field trips are important because students are able to engage with content in a variety of ways,” the staff at Explorable Places wrote even before the pandemic. “Concepts are presented through all different media and different modalities, so students who struggle with traditional learning can feel smart and confident. They are able to access the content better when they can learn holistically. When they return to school, the trip that they took can serve as a touchpoint for an entire unit.”
It shouldn’t be too surprising that with this in mind, studies have shown that the use of field trips can actually lead to students receiving higher test scores.
“Field trips can also be an important component of a well-rounded instructional program,” Marguax Spiegal wrote in a piece for Magnus Health. “They bring balance to the curriculum as field-based learning increases test scores. Based on a New York University study by Emily Rube Whitesell, middle schoolers who participated in science field trips through the Urban Advantage program in New York, score better on the state science test.”
In other words, these field trips during the pandemic could potentially provide an enriched learning experience while also be extra rewarding with the impact the pandemic has had on students.
With all that being said, the events are being held in person and steps are being taken to social distancing recommendations are followed during the event. One of the ways they’re helping to make sure the events are safe is by limiting the number of people who can attend. While the exact total depends on the exact program and the site the event’s being held at, a brief scan through the events suggests they’re often held to around a dozen participants each. This means that all of the slots might fill up rather quickly, so the Park Authority and other county officials are encouraging people to reach out about the possibility of adding more events.