A trip to visit Stanley Park has become an annual event for my Biology 11 course. This year, the trip was timed so that we could attend not only the Vancouver Aquarium, but also the fabulous intertidal zone exposed during the afternoon. We have to wait for a time when the tide is low on a school day during school hours. The wait was worth it – it was a great way to connect the material we study in the classroom to our local environment.
Students are always more engaged when they have a personal connection – seeing things with their own eyes, or, even better, touching specimens. The reality of using your own sense, rather than the filter of technology or print, is much more engaging. A live specimen that you can touch makes a stronger memory than anything presented through digital or print media. To make it more lasting, students often use their cell phone cameras to snap photos, and share with friends.
I’ve always seen scientific knowledge as a doorway to feeling more connected to the world we are part of. The more we understand the phenomena around us, the more we recognize the organisms we share our environment with, and the more likely we are to feel a sense of stewardship. I want my students to feel connected to the natural world around us. (We are “the Natural Place to Learn”.) If they feel connected and have respect for our local environment they will become better citizens, both locally, and globally.
It terms of what I have learned for my professional practice as a teacher from this annual field trip:
My first lesson was – don’t offer it at the end of the school year, or you’ll have poor attendance! I’ve also learned that no matter how wonderful I think the Vancouver Aquarium and intertidal zone are, some students will be uninterested. You can lead a horse to water….. It’s always interesting to observe my students away from the classroom. I love to see them enjoying themselves, and see that ‘inner child’ allowed to come out to play, and to express joy and wonder.
Written by Laurie Louwe, Teacher, Carson Graham Secondary