HomeNewsThe future of field trips in the world of distance learning

The future of field trips in the world of distance learning

Published Sept. 10, 2020


Due to this year’s transition to Zoom calls and Google Classroom assignments, the absence of field trips, which previously played a substantial role in several classes, has left a void for teachers to fill.

One such class missing out on field trips is AVID, a four-year course focused on providing students with academic guidance and the skills they need to get accepted to and complete college. Much of the class consists of students who are the first in their family planning to attend college.

“The college field trips were a chance for a lot of students who otherwise wouldn’t have been able to see colleges and universities,” says Aubrey Powers, one of three AVID teachers at Carmel High School.

Normally, the freshmen and sophomore AVID classes would go on various day trips throughout the year while the senior and junior classes each would get a three-day overnight trip, in the fall and spring respectively. Upperclassmen would traditionally have the opportunity to plan their particular trips and have leeway in deciding what schools they visit.

“It gets really real when you start walking on college campuses and you’re talking to admissions, saying, ‘I’m applying to this school in two months,’” AVID teacher Marc Stafford says. “That is a big part of the motivation of the AVID program. I’m worried that there’s kids that—since we’re not having that experience—might be like, ‘Oh I’ll just stay home.’”

Monterey’s Paris Bakery, as seen is this photo from 2013, has acted as an highly anticipated annual field trip location for Marden’s French class. (Photo by Suzanne Marden)

Stafford’s class is not alone in missing engaging field trips. In a typical year, Leigh Cambra takes her freshmen health classes on monthly trips, Jason Maas-Baldwin takes his AP Environmental Science students to various wildlife and ecological hotspots to do field science, and the world language classes head to the Carmel Middle School’s habitat to cook cultural food or visit local restaurants.

“I ask them to put their phones away, talk to each other and have the cultural experience of being present during a meal,” French teacher Suzanne Marden notes.

For many classes, field trips relate directly to the content being taught in class. In Environmental Science, students sample water quality at the Carmel River during the water pollution unit, visit Earthbound Farms during the food unit and study species variation at the tide pools and the habitat during a biodiversity unit.

“On a lot of trips we’re doing real-world science,” Maas-Baldwin says. “Part of that real-world science is something called citizen science where we’re actually collecting data that is going into long-term databases.”

Although his classes can no longer gather to collect field data, Maas-Baldwin has plans to instead have students collect data in their neighborhoods using a species detecting app called iNaturalist to record bird populations. He’s optimistic that the distance-learning experience will yield new teaching techniques that he can import back to an in-person classroom.

“Typically I have guest speakers come in, and it’s really hard to get a guest speaker to come for four different classes throughout the day, especially if you want somebody who’s really good,” the science teacher says. “But we’re gonna do an APES speaker series, and if there’s a timeslot in the evening, maybe I’ll tell students, ‘Hey, class is short today, but come in the evening if you can.’”

Across the board, CHS teachers are thinking of ways to fill the gaps left behind by the absence of field trips. The AVID teachers are considering doing virtual tours—although they emphasize that they can never compare to the real experience—and Cambra hopes to still put on the rock climbing trip, a health class staple.

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