ERIC Identifier: ED402154 Publication Date: 1996-09-00
Author: Landis, Carol Source: ERIC Clearinghouse for
Science Mathematics and Environmental Education Columbus OH.
Teaching Science in the Field. ERIC Digest.
How frequently do students study the natural world "outside?" Teaching
science in the field provides unique opportunities to investigate the natural
world of students' everyday lives. As in the classroom, lessons designed to
foster "meaningful learning," provide "hands-on activities" and promote student
"inquiry" can be effectively implemented in the world's largest laboratories,
the natural and built environments of the outdoors. Many studies indicate that
well-designed, field-based instructional strategies promote cognitive learning
and other outcomes worthy of greater attention (Lisowski & Disinger, 1987).
A variety of settings and locales can be used for science investigations in
the field, ranging from schoolyard investigations within the time frame of a
single class period (Russell, 1984) to residential (boarding) programs involving
overnight stays. Stoodt (1995) explains the use of "hands-on" science in the
schoolyard and backyard, and offers tips for getting started with few resources.
Studying the principles of physics in amusement parks (Reno & Speers, 1995)
and using "Computer Physics on the Playground" (Taylor, Hutson, Krawiec, Ebert,
& Rubeinstein, 1995) are good examples of field experiences strongly related
to student experiences and interests.
USING URBAN ENVIRONMENTS
Valuable field experiences are not
limited to "natural" areas; urban environments can be rich sources of field
experiences. Peters (1995) described an eco-social studies approach which
examines the issues, conflicts, and problems in relationships between humans and
their natural environment. Use of a physics "trail" has also been described for
outside the classroom (Foster, 1989). Nearby areas can be developed for ecology
studies (Hale, 1985; Schneider, 1984), and many sites can be studied effectively
"as is," such as vacant lots, trees, and the school playground (Ferbert, 1979;
Hollweg, 1988). Vogl and Vogl (1985) focus elementary students' attention with
leading questions and then present a site survey of the urban environment,
including the soil, plants, and animals typical of city areas. Shaffer and
Fielder (1987) include the materials of which the streets and buildings are
constructed, and study the city as a system.
A VARIETY OF EXPERIENCES
Many different types of field
experiences have been described, including development of environmental study
areas (Buetler, 1993; Johns & Liske, 1992; Trust, 1991), development of
nature trails (Zeph, 1985), extended field studies (Muller, 1983; Rigby, 1986),
and activities for students with physical handicaps at outdoor education centers
(James, 1982; Peterson & Sullivan, 1982). Formal evaluation of programs
(Brody, 1984; Hamm, 1985) has also been described. Papers presented at the
International Symposium on Fieldwork in the Sciences (ISFIS) address such topics
as: interdisciplinary approaches, preschool education, the role of fieldwork in
environmental education, nature excursions, computer applications, reference
collections, teacher training, project descriptions, and implementation of
fieldwork (van Trommel, 1990).
Continued calls for integration of
subject matter strengthen arguments for teaching science in the field since the
interrelationships of formal knowledge are evident within thematic instruction
(Cook & Martinello, 1994). Both elementary and middle school teachers have
used thematic instruction and student collaboration with success (Nelson &
Frederick, 1994; Piazza, Scott, & Carver, 1994). Suggestions for the
implementation of environmental studies (Disinger, 1986; Greig, Pike, &
Selby, 1989; Hungerford & Volk, 1984) also indicate the applicability of
environmental education in high school settings. But there are also barriers
(Mason, 1980; Samuel, 1993).
High school science classes have traditionally retained a disciplinary focus,
yet the recommendations of "Science for All Americans" (Rutherford &
Ahlgren, 1990) suggest that a concerted effort to be inclusive of the interests
and abilities of all learners is long overdue. Changes in curricular
design--elements of which are often found within field-based inquiry--are also
recommended in the "National Standards for Science Education" (NRC, 1996).
"Parts courses--parts of the cell, parts of the microscope, parts of the leaf,
parts of the brain, parts of whatever--neither do justice to the nature of
biology nor do they benefit the student" (Ost & Yager, 1993). Rather than
focusing on nomenclature and college preparation, the construction of curricula
that promote depth of understanding, and less coverage or breadth, would enable
investigation of themes that include the natural world, in natural settings.
OVERCOMING GENDER BIAS
The important contributions of
science in solving social problems, which are rooted in real-world observations,
has been described as an influential factor in the decision-making of girls who
elect to study science (Harding, 1985). Specific steps can be taken to remove
gender bias and to include the thinking of scientists with diverse backgrounds,
overtly directed toward retaining the interest of women in pursuing
science-related careers. For example, undertaking investigations that are global
in scope and use more interactive methods, increasing the time spent in the
observation, and involving women in the construction and manipulation of
equipment are recommended to maintain the participation of women in the
scientific enterprise. Use of more cooperative learning strategies and both
quantitative and qualitative data collection methods, accompanied by the
development of hypotheses that are relational and multi-causal rather than
consistently employing strictly-controlled, reductionist studies are also
recommended (Rosser, 1993).
PLANNING FOR SUCCESS
Ideas for the development of
management skills, planning opportunities, and curriculum development (Bain,
1979; Disinger, 1984; Fischer, 1984; and Lavine, 1985) have been offered. Tips
have also been offered regarding useful teaching strategies, available community
study units, and steps for arranging and leading field trips, including sample
forms for parental permissions and transportation requests, (Lee County School
Bain, R. (August, 1979). Teacher education:
Learning to use the outdoors. Paper prepared for the International Symposium on
World Trends in Science Education (Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, August 1979).
Brody, M. J. (1984). The floating lab research project: An approach to
evaluating field programs. ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 260 911.
Buetler, L. (Ed.). (1993). Turn your schoolgrounds into an environmental
study area. Clearing, 81, 7-10.
Cook, G. E., and Martinello, M. L. (1994). Topics and themes in
interdisciplinary curriculum. Middle School Journal, 25(3), 40-44.
Disinger, J. F. (1984). Field instruction in school settings. (ERIC Digest).
Columbus, OH: ERIC/SMEAC. [ED 259 935]
Disinger, J. F. (1986). Current trends in environmental education. Journal of
Environmental Education, 17(2), 1-2.
Ferbert, M. L. (1979). Nature in the city. Adventure guide. Cleveland, OH:
Museum of Natural History. [ED 222 327]
Fischer, R. B. (1984). Successful field trips. Nature Study, 37(3-4), 24-27.
Foster, S. (1989). Streetwise physics. School Science Review, 70(254 ),
Greig, S., Pike, G., & Selby, D. (1989). Green prints for changing
schools. London: Kogan Page.
Hale, M. (1985). Expanding the horizons of urban ecology. Journal of
Biological Education, 19(4 ), 259-62.
Hamm, R. W. (1985). A systematic evaluation of an environmental
investigations course (Unpublished Ph.D. Dissertation), Georgia State
University. [ED 256 622]
Harding, Jan. (April, 1985). International panel debate: "Gender and Science
Issues," Women in science and engineering: Changing vision to reality. American
Association for the Advancement of Science Conference, U. of Michigan, Ann
Arbor, April 13-18, 1985.
Hungerford, H. R., and Volk, T. (1984). The challenges of K-12 environmental
education. In A. B. Sacks (Ed.). Monographs in environmental education and
environmental studies, Vol. 1 (pp. 3-30). Troy, OH: North American Association
for Environmental Education. [ED 251 293]
James, M. (1982). A special place helping special people. Conservationist,
Johns, F. A., and Liske, K. A. (1992). Schoolyard adventuring. Science and
Children, 30(3), 19-21.
Lavine, C. S. (1985). OBIS. Outdoor Communicator, 16(2), 40-43.
Lee County School District. (1988). From classroom teacher to field trip
leader. Hints for getting there. Ft. Myers, FL: Dept. of Environmental Education
and Instructional Development Services. [ED 326 418]
Lisowski, M., & Disinger, J. F. (1987). Cognitive learning in the
environment: Secondary students. (ERIC Digest). Columbus, OH: ERIC/SMEAC. [ED
Mason, J. L. (1980). Field work in Earth science classes. School Science and
Mathematics, 80, 317-322.
Muller, S. W. (1983). Some field hints from an old top hand. Journal of
Geological Education, 31(1), 36-39.
National Research Council. (1996). National science education standards.
Washington, DC: National Academy Press.
Nelson, J. R., & Frederick, L. (1994). Can children design curriculum?
Educational Leadership, 51, 71-74.
Ost, D. H., & Yager, R. E. (1993). Biology, STS, and the next steps in
program design and curriculum development. The American Biology Teacher, 55(5),
Peters, R. O. (1995). Environmental education in urban communities. Schools
in the Middle, 5(1), 16-18.
Peterson, B., & Sullivan, M. J. (1982). Field application of ecological
principles for physically handicapped high school students. Final report.
Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University. [ED 230 435]
Piazza, J. A., Scott, M. M., & Carver, E. C. (1994). Thematic webbing and
the curriculum standards in the primary grades. Arithmetic Teacher, 41(6),
Reno, C., & Speers, R. R. (1995). Accelerometer measurements in the
amusement park. Physics Teacher, 33(6), 382-84.
Rigby, J. A. (1986). In the schools: California treat: Three days in five
ecosystems. Science and Children, 23(4), 20-23.
Rosser, S. V. (1993). Female friendly science: Including women in curricular
content and pedagogy in science. The Journal of General Education, 42(3),
Russell, H. R. (1984). Ten-minute field trips: Using the school grounds to
teach. Nature Study, 37(3-4), 8.
Rutherford, F. J., & Ahlgren, A.. (1990). Science for all Americans. NY:
Oxford University Press.
Samuel, H. R. (1993). Impediments to implementing environmental education.
The Journal of Environmental Education, 25(1), 26-29.
Schneider, M. (1984). Setting up an outdoor lab. Science and Children, 21(4),
Shaffer, C., and Fielder, E. (1987). City safaris. A Sierra Club explorer's
guide to urban adventures for grownups and kids. San Francisco: Sierra Club
Books. [ED 291 585]
Stoodt, B. D. (Comp.). (1995). What works in science. Learning, 23(5), 72-78.
Taylor, R., Hutson, D., Krawiec, W., Ebert, J., & Rubinstein, R. (1995).
Computer physics on the playground. Physics Teacher, 33(6), 332-37.
Trust, J. (1991). A habitat-forming experience. Science Teacher, 58(9),
van Trommel, J. (Ed.). (1990, April). Proceedings of the International
Symposium on Fieldwork in the Sciences (Westerbork, The Netherlands, April
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Vogl, S., and Vogl, R. L. (1985). Teaching nature in cities and towns. Urban
outdoor biology and ecology. Danville, IL: Interstate Printers & Publishers.
[ED 282 755]
Zeph, P. T. (1985). TIPS for environmental education: Teacher aids for using
a discovery trail. Nature Study, 38(2-3), 26-28.
-The GLOBE Project
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