Take a Field Trip

Big Idea:
Students, like professional scientists, will use field research to make direct observations of the natural world.

Field experiences come in all forms and sizes. From an hour or two spent in a nearby park, to an overnight trip camping outside the city, field experiences present opportunities for teachers to extend their lessons beyond the classroom. These experiences also give students a chance to engage in hands-on, experiential learning in an outdoor setting while exploring exciting real-world environments.

For many teachers, the easiest place to bring students is a nearby park or natural area. Other ideas for places to go include:
  • bird banding station
  • bird observatory
  • nature center or preserve
  • state or county park
Education staff at these sites will assist you in scheduling the visit and provide details for the trip. Some sites have pre-visit materials you can use, and may even be able to help you connect the lessons from this curriculum to the resources at their site. Please contact your local BirdSleuth Coordinator for details on local field experience resources or use the following web site to locate a park or natural area near you: Nature Find.

Learning Objectives:
  1. Students will be able to make direct observations in nature.
  2. Students will be able to compare the habitat(s) and animals at the field site with those of their schoolyard.

Time Needed:
Time varies from one-two hours to a full day, depending on the field trip activity(ies) and site.

Gather data sheets, pencils and clipboards needed to conduct a citizen science count (CUBS or eBird) while at the site, as well as drawing materials for mapping/drawing the site. We have included a general scavenger hunt for you to adapt to guide students through a casual "inventory" of the field site. You may also want to ask for pre-visit materials from the field trip coordinator or education staff at your field trip site.

Getting Ready:
If necessary, contact the site to schedule a visit. Seek administrative approval, funding, recruit chaperones, arrange transportation, and review expectations as needed. Ask students to compile a "necessary materials and equipment" list to take along. You may need to do prior research on the habitat and diversity of bird species of the site, to guide the students.

Conducting the Activity:
Before the Field Trip

1. Be sure to do Lesson 7: Count Birds for Science if you plan to conduct a bird count at the field site.
2. Introduce the field trip visit, date, location, etc. with students. Provide a list of the things they need for the trip.
3. Ask students what they already know about the field experience site, including the habitat(s). Ask them to research more about the site and habitat to share with the class before the field trip. You many want to divide the class into groups and assign a different aspect for each group to research, for example different areas and/or habitats at the site and the plants/animals/habitat features found there; or birds, mammals, reptiles & amphibians, shrubs, trees, and flowers.
4. Request a bird list for the site or ask students to research before the visit and compile a list of likely birds according to season and habitats within the field site.
5. Prepare and review with students any handouts.
6. Review expected field trip conduct / behavior.

During the Field Trip

1. Participate in the activities planned by the field trip coordinator or site education staff (if applicable).
2. Ask each student to take a notebook with them to the field site. Ask the students to make observations about the birds and the habitat they see. They may also take photographs or record videos.
3. Conduct a citizen science bird count or scavenger hunt. Bird count: based on the bird species list that was given to you (or that your class compiled) ask the students to count the bird species they observe. Scavenger hunt: have students make a list of plants and animals found at the field site, using the scavenger hunt.
4.) If possible, discuss their findings in the field (if not, discuss in the classroom).

Follow-Up Discussion

1. Ask students to answer the following questions in a journal entry
  • What did you enjoy most during this field trip? How was this experience different than what you would have learned in a classroom?
  • What did you find surprising about the field trip?
  • Do you think it is important for there to be preserved natural areas in communities? Why or why not?

Activity #1
Ask students to create a virtual field trip using photos, videos, or sketches from their field trip. The students can create interview guides and narration to guide someone through the site. In this project, ask them to highlight important features of the habitat and discuss the bird diversity data they collected. Share this virtual field trip on your Habitat Exchange class page and check out virtual field trips on the websites of other classes.

Resources to find local field sites and outreach resources:
Avian Index: The Bird Education Resource Directory
  • A resource for bird educators to find supplies, resources, and advice.
  • Find local and regional bird banding stations and observatories here.
  • A listing of Audubon Society centers and sanctuaries in the United States.
  • Resources for teachers on how to teach about birds, habitats, and conservation
  • Resource for finding natural areas in your neighborhood