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Field Trips – The building blocks of first hand research

Field trips in most schools are often entertainment rather than curriculum and are driven by the plan the teacher has. So, if the plan includes a study of marine life, the teacher may organise a field trip to the aquarium. At B. D. Somani, field trips are guided and driven by our young explorers’ questions and curiosity. Field trips are not purely for fun but are serious business for our young researchers trying to seek answers to questions they have and to deepen their understanding of the world around them.

At B.D. Somani, we believe our curriculum cannot be confined to the classroom so field trips provide valuable experiences and research opportunities.

Block building is integral to our curriculum from Reception to Grade 1. Students start out by building the familiar, like the school or their home and their projects become more ambitious as they progress through the school year. Field trips are an excellent tool to develop and enhance students’ understanding of the buildings in their community. Often during their block building planning, questions arise about the details of the buildings and the people who use them. Who works here? What is inside the building? What do the workers/inhabitants use? For example, Kindergarteners often choose to build Fire Stations. After their initial construction, they realize they need more information about the inside details. When they visit the local fire station, they make careful observations and interview the fire personnel. They are able to add many authentic elements to their building. Experiencing it in person gave them so much more clarity than they would have received from simply hearing or reading about it. Reality gives their imagination wings and helps them grapple with the complex world they live in.

Students note down all the questions they plan to ask at their destination. Some trips may be a small group working on a particular project and some may be the entire class.

We conduct a consciously integrated curriculum. For example, concepts like addition or nutrition are practiced when students calculate how many apples and oranges they need for their fruit salad. With their shopping list, their trip to the fruit wallah involves implementation of skills they have learned. They select the fruit they need, calculate the total price and the change expected. They even proudly learn how to bargain!

In Grade 1, as they build more detailed structures, they start to notice things they wouldn’t have during daily life with their families. Skills in observation, interviewing and information gathering are all practiced.

In the higher grades, field trips continue to be an integral part of the curriculum in social studies and science. In Grade 4, Mumbai is the focus of social studies. Students explore all aspects of our city from the original seven islands, to particular ethnic neighborhoods, to industries in the local colonies, to land reclamation, to current urban development.

Field trips also open their minds to other subjects like literature. When students read The Six Spellmakers of Dorabji Street, a story set in Colaba, Shabnam Minwalla, the author, joined them for a walking trip and pointed out the Pasta lanes and other landmarks from the book. They loved the interaction and the book took on a deeper meaning for them.

While students often decide what they want to explore, teachers guide their decisions. One class had many questions about the tides so they observed the sea every day for 10 days and documented the changes. This led to questions about the fisherfolk and their lives and a trip to Macchimaar Nagar and Sassoon Dock ensued. Students interacted with the Kolis, the original inhabitants of Mumbai, learning about their lives and culture.

Some students are more vocal and expressive in a non-classroom environment. However, field trips stimulate everyone’s curiosity and assist in articulating complex questions that lead to understanding far beyond the surface.

When students return from their field trips, they present a reflection of their visit to the class. When students share their individual reflections in class, they are able to visualise each other’s perspectives and gather more from the experience. Sometimes, field trip reflections lead to writing pieces. For example, after meeting the author, some students wrote a diary entry with meeting notes while some chose to write it as a newspaper article. In the early years, reflections often take the form of art and more sophisticated block building structures.

While field trips are tied to many aspects of their education – block-building, social studies, literacy, math – they teach students many skills that go beyond the curriculum. They learn teamwork by working in pairs, teams and groups. Field trips are usually followed by a group presentation to demonstrate their understanding. First-hand observations help them validate theories and give them access to many different people and experiences. They develop an understanding and respect for the community, confidence, self-awareness and a sense of responsibility. Their perspectives change and broaden. They are more in tune with their emotional selves and better able to empathise with the people they meet.

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