Quick and easy fieldwork ideas
You do not necessarily have to change your entire fieldtrip in order to bring it up to date. Adding a few fun activities can engage your students in geographical learning - and make your fieldwork exciting and relevant.
Field studies tutors at Slapton Ley Field Centre in Devon argue that there does not necessarily need to be a distinction between the teaching and learning approaches used in the classroom and the field.
For example, it can be useful practice to adopt starters and plenaries in the field to structure your activity, or to engage students in role play and drama.
- Play I-spy to identify landscape features
- Play ‘Just a minute' - students have to talk about the landform for one minute without hesitation, repetition or deviation. It is harder than they will think
- Play charades or mime a coastal process
- Play Taboo - students have to describe a process without using five key terms
- Use three descriptive words and Haiku poems to express thoughts and feelings about different places
- Use laminated photos in the field to compare the site today with how it looked in the past, or looks under different conditions, for example a river in flood
- Students can also annotate the features and processes of the landscape onto laminated photos, to assist them with later analysis. This is a useful alternative to field sketching. Teachers should have a fully labelled version for comparison
- Ask students to take their own digital photos of the site and talk about them to the rest of the group: Why did they choose this photo? What does it show? What geographical features and processes can it be used to explain?
- Collect pebbles that represent the geology of a shingle ridge and conduct a mini-investigation to predict and then find out where the material has come from. Students usually end up rejecting their hypothesis that the material will be locally sourced
- Set up scavenger hunts to collect and identify species in ecosystem and succession studies
- Kim's Game is another alternative - and fun - approach to species identification
- Compare species diversity, population density or similar through a living graph. Students congregate in groups to represent different quantities, for example the difference in species diversity on and off a footpath during a tourism impact study
- Engage in some environmental art! Use natural materials to create some abstract sculpture, or even a collage of the landscape itself. Rubbings and natural dyes from plants can also be used
- Use drama or dance to act out the role of constructive and destructive waves in beach formation, or positive and negative ions in soil cation exchange. Students can also act out the journey of a water droplet from source to mouth
- Try hot-seating - students use empathy to explore how different people might feel about a controversial issue
- On the walk back to the school or coach, tell a student at the front of the group a fact that they have to relate to everyone else in the group as they pass. Not only can this act as a useful reminder to students of a key point from the fieldwork, but it keeps the group together and redistributes the fastest students to the back
- Play ‘Equipment Pictionary' and pitch groups of students against each other to see who can identify the names and the uses of items of fieldwork equipment that they have used during the day
- Encourage students to assess each other's field sketches - checking for labels, descriptions, explanations
Back in the classroom
- Use your Interactive White Board to refresh students' memories of the field site using photos, video clips and diagrams
- Project your site photos onto the white board and use them as a template for annotated field sketches
- Use Memory Map or Movie Maker to create clips as a reminder of the different sites visited and as an aid to analysis. They can also be used in the classroom before the trip as a starter to set the hypotheses and to engage students in interactive risk assessment
Teachers from schools around the country have contributed case studies of fieldwork they have carried out with their students that they feel has been particularly successful. These articles include information about the fieldwork, resources, tips and checklists to help you to adapt their ideas for your own fieldwork setting.
Year 8 organic farming
Lindsay Wells, Head of Geography at Blackheath High School, London, describes a fieldtrip she organised for her Year 8 students to an organic farm in Kent. The aim of the trip was to introduce the concepts of agricultural change and the impact of farming on the environment. The fieldtrip formed part of a Year 8 unit of study on the changing distribution and impact of economic activity.
A2 Paris residential
John Snelling, Head of Geography at Trinity School in Croydon presents a case study of a two day residential trip to Paris for A2 students. The aim of the trip was to investigate a variety of urban redevelopment sites in the city, and by visiting seven sites across the Metro network the students were able to develop an understanding of the different scales of redevelopment projects available to urban planners, and to build a comprehensive case study for their A2 course.
GCSE trip to Costa Rica
Neil Lobo, Head of Geography at Vyners School in London, has recently led a trip for GCSE Geography students to Costa Rica. Neil submitted an article about the trip for his Masters in Geographical Education. The article focused on the role of student fieldwork journals in geographical education, but also includes details about fundraising, organisation and the trip itinerary.
Anthony Cheetham from Highfield Science Specialist School recently received an RGS-IBG Innovative Geography Teaching Grant to develop a geographical murder mystery based on fieldwork in North Wales. An article about the project was published in the Ordnance Survey magazine Mapping News.
Fieldwork status report
This report (PDF) is the outcome of research into current innovation in fieldwork.
It highlights good practice and great ideas from teachers up and down the country.