Mini Field Visits – the way forward!

Whole day field visits are lovely but often are simply not practical. The costs to cover teachers for a day is astronomical and the impact on other curriculum areas is negative and leads to conflict.

Well there is a solution – the mini field visit!

I can’t say this is my idea. It’s not. My colleague Adele decided last year she wanted to take Year 10 out more and do more museum visits using artefacts to teach some of the medicine course. To do this and have a minimal impact on the curriculum she came up with idea of running mini field visits: a visit we could run in a single hour but would still have all the elements of a whole day field visit – we’d visit somewhere interesting, we’d engage with the history around us and we’d look at real artefacts. Also as we’d do it locally, we’d walk thus keeping it free and not stopping any kids from attending.

For our first mini field visit we ran a trip to Bristol Museum to teach about Egyptian civilisation. We left school at 1.30pm, walked them down to Queens Rd in time for 2pm and the start of Period 5. Then we introduced the Egyptians, in the Egyptian gallery which had far greater impact and resulting engagement. Then we gave the kids a simple worksheet of artefacts. The kids were told it was a hunt to find all of them work out what they were and come up with some inferences about Egyptian civilisation. It was this simple. The impact though was great. Kids loved being out of school and we got to teach the lesson in a fab setting with ‘real’ historical artefacts.

Using this template I decided I would do the same in KS3. So working out that Year 9 all had an afternoon Humanities lesson at some point in the timetable which meant I could steal the lesson and teacher (further reducing impact) I planned a lesson on the impact of the Blitz in Bristol, intending to increase the sense that WW2 (our current scheme of work) is their history and its important to their city. Again we kept it simple. We walked them down to the museum again for 2pm. Then using the museum itself as an artefact we discussed what was the Blitz and examined the damage on the pillars in the back room looking at A3 photos of the same room the day after it had been hit by a Nazi bomb. We then did some teacher narrative about the Blitz aided by more A3 photos and read some Blitz experiences read by Bristolians. Then having collected photos of Bristol in the Blitz from museum colleagues and the record office the kids were split into groups given five photos and five attached tasks that would lead them around the streets nearest to the museum. Again we pitched it as a treasure hunt and said the kids had to find the present day site and work out exactly where each photo was taken. The tasks involved were very Year 7, things like adding speech bubbles to people in the image, sketching what was there now, looking for evidence of an old theatre (a blue plaque) but it got them thinking and they loved the sense of the hunt. A quick plenary back at the museum showed they got it and we packed them off home.

This mini-field visit model works a treat. It’s easy for us and the kids love it. We are now meeting the OFSTED criteria for a good department by increasing the number of field visits we offer and already are planning a Year 8 trip about Victorian Britain where we intend to do something using some of the architectural bits of Empire near to school, e.g. the Victoria Rooms.

Although Bristol makes mini-field visits easy there is nothing to say you can’t do this with stuff around your school, you just have to be creative. To keep it successful here’s what I reckon works:

  • Keep it fun. Don’t make the tasks that onerous. Get them thinking and keep writing to a minimum.
  • Use the history around you. This is all that’s possible in an hour so be creative. Use buildings. Use landscape. Think about what this might tell you.
  • Just because it’s an hour doesn’t mean you should forget the principles of a good field visit. Have an overall enquiry question, have a plenary bit.
  • If you are able to use a museum, use artefacts as much as you can. Kids love them.
  • Create some sort of hunt activity. They’ve worked great for us.
  • Use parts of a museum that others find boring or useless, they’ll be quiet allowing your kids to be noisy with their learning.
  • Use your local museum / heritage colleagues for ideas. They love to help!
  • Work out when your group has afternoon lessons so you don’t have to panic about getting back in time for other lessons. Get them to do the walking to wherever you are going in their lunch time so you have maximum learning time.
  • Use lots of visual aids and old images of the site you are visiting. It has great impact showing those images in situ.
  • Arrange for the kids to go home from the site or be picked up from the site meaning you don’t have to walk them home.
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