Field Trips: Learning Beyond 4 Walls

On Monday I had my first teacher experience leading a big field trip! I planned this field trip for my two science classes for almost four full months, which was maybe a bit too much, but I wanted everything to be perfect for this big, full day outside the classroom! Let me start by saying our big field trip day definitely was not a perfect day. I won’t go into the imperfect details because I know my students a) probably didn’t even realize the imperfections and b) evidently learned something because it’s been two days since our outing and I’m still catching snippets of hallway conversation about the field trip.


We field tripped for the majority of our Monday at our local aquarium, Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre. The greatest part about our local aquarium is that it educates about the sea life and creatures that surround our island; thus, truly sticking to the “local” aspect of learning. The knowledgeable and skilled volunteers at the aquarium presented my busy, active students with three hands on/minds on curricular and grade appropriate workshops about killer whales. My students and I learned more about our resident K and J pod killer whales in 90 minutes than we ever would from a textbook or YouTube video. If I’m honest, some of my student were skeptical about this field trip because they had either been to the aquarium before or, being the cool grade 8s they are, thought it was too “babyish” for their taste. However, I think the learning that occurred at the aquarium really was authentic because the following day my students were able to report out specific details they remembered from their workshops. I was one impressed teacher!

A complete female killer whale skeleton suspended above the gift shop.

A complete female killer whale skeleton suspended above the aquarium’s gift shop.

Hands on touch pool at the aquarium!

Hands on touch pool at the aquarium.

We saw all kinds of creatures during our day.

We saw all kinds of creatures during our day.

In case you haven’t already caught on, I am a big fan of getting students outside of the classroom walls when it comes to learning. There is a time and place for textbook work, but I firmly believe the most important and authentic learning involves getting out of the classroom and getting in to real life situations whenever possible. Following our field trip day we tuned in to the movie “Keiko’s Journey Home”, the story about the famous killer whale, Keiko (stars as Willy in “Free Willy”), and how he was captured, trained and eventually rehabilitated in a natural-like habitat. My students watched this film rather silently and were really able to connect to Keiko’s story because of all the learning we did about killer whales in the earlier part of the day.

Because we live on the West Coast our sea life environment is very “in our face” on a day to day basis, in fact, the Pacific Ocean is right down the road from our school! I think it’s safe to assume that every one of my students has likely been to the ocean’s beaches at least once in the past few months. Our aquarium field trip brought our awareness to our everyday surroundings (beaches, ocean, seals, whales, sea weed) while offering greater insight to the impact our actions might have on our local sea life environment.

I believe the world will experience real, positive change if teachers are able to educate their students in a way that is meaningful to them, such as educating about our local environment. When students make meaning in and of their learning, making real change is inspired within the learner.

Check out “Keiko’s Journey Home” here:


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