Monday, June 02, 2008

A Field Trip to Stearns Woods

Inspired by my reading of the book Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv, one of my goals this school year was to take my students on a field trip to Stearns Woods, a local forest within walking distance of my school. My hope was that this field trip would have outcomes way beyond helping my kids get better test scores; this was field trip I wanted to take because I believe that school should consist of more than preparing our students for standardized tests. Last summer I introduced my own kids to a forest near my house. After witnessing the enjoyment they got out of running down the trails and playing in the creek, I was sold on the ideas that Louv presented in his book. I wanted to my students to have these experiences also. So the outcome I was hoping for was that this field trip would expose them to a natural area close to their homes and perhaps they would be motivated to visit it again.

As I started planning our trip, I realized that it was an opportunity for much more than a nice morning or afternoon wandering around the woods. I could develop a major project, one that would incorporate several forms of digital media, based on our trip to the woods. I decided to divide the kids into six groups and on the day of the trip armed each group with a digital camera. With the cameras they would take photos of various plants, trees, animals tracks, and fungi, each one evidence of the biodiversity of the woods. They would then use these photos in iMovie to make a slideshow (complete with vocals, music, titles, etc.) that explained the importance of the woods for the city of Wyoming.

As expected, my students were extremely excited about using iMovie. Before taking the trip, I checked out the computer lab for a couple days so that they could get some practice with it before creating their actual slideshows. With me giving simple directions here and there, they quickly learned how to use the software and were putting together slide shows in no time. It didn't take long for them to begin asking if they could incorporate music. I knew that they would be able to import music from CD's, but it was at this point that I seized another opportunity--to have my kids check out the royalty free music that was hanging out on the Internet, free and easy-to-get. Moreover, they could learn about the importance of attributing the music to its author.

I've taken a look at some of the completed slideshows (but have yet to grade them), and I have to say that they need a little work. But this was my first iMovie project and for most of them theirs too. Next year I'll go back to the drawing board and make the necessary adjustments so that the final products show significant improvement. Anyway, isn't the process is almost more important than the final product?

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Mike Frerichs said...

What a great lesson! I see you have found some excellent ways to incorporate your love of the outdoors into your teaching. My wife and I recently were visiting my family in Eastern Wyoming/ Western Nebraska. We handed our digital camera to my four year old niece during a visit to Scottsbluff National Monument. Her pictures are fascinating-- very different than what I would have taken.

amblank said...

I really enjoyed reading your post about integrating technology into your field trip. I am currently a junior at Oklahoma State University, in elementary education. The more classes I take the more I realize technology is very important to use in the classroom. I am always thinking of ways to make a classroom fun and exciting for students, your experience with your class is just another exanple of making learning fun for everyone!