Agency on School Trips?

IMG_3244Today we went on a trip to the zoo.

With so many students, half of the group went on a guided tour first while the other group explored, and half way through we switched.

I’ll admit it. I struggled.

Well prepared teachers gave all of the exploring students paper, a pencil, and a clipboard to fill out a chart about their learning as they walked around.

I can tell you right now my group did not do that. Even though they had all been to this zoo before, they were all too excited to apply their new knowledge of animal adaptations to the actual real world. They rushed to see the leopard’s spots, and ran to see the brown bear’s first day out of hibernation. My little group of 6 boys were having a fantastic time exploring the things they wanted to see. We naturally talked about habitats, body coverings, and why so many snakes were still sleeping. The paper, pencils, and clipboards just got carried around. Worksheets were not touched. Should I have pushed it? My gut said no. But what if we were the only group not to do anything on paper? My gut still said no. I’d stand up for them if I needed to. They needed to experience the zoo. (No one said anything about them in the end, so what was their actual purpose to begin with? I am not sure.)

We had lunch by the puffins before meeting our tour guide at the aquarium. Our whole trip could have been in this tiny aquarium. We would have been able to stand there in awe, admiring all of the colourful adaptations and odd shapes for an hour or more. The tour guide was amazing, but the kids just wanted to be kids. I will fully admit that even I was distracted by the fish while she was talking. A moray eel made an appearance and was highly distracting for me. This happened again at the monkeys, and again in a jungle room we sat in where a mouse-deer appeared out of nowhere (one of the weirdest things I have ever seen)! I definitely also saw other students lose interest at various different points. Was it worth having a guided tour where students were forced to stand in one spot and listen to someone talk about something they may or may not be interested in?


Naturally, this got me thinking more about student agency and what the students actually wanted to do at the zoo. I understand that learning to listen to speakers is still something that the students need to learn to do. Of course I also understand that she was extremely knowledgeable and had great things for the students to listen to.


When on a trip, can the students not just enjoy?

Could we maybe just make them aware that they will do some sort of reflection of their choice afterwards to make them accountable and to think about their learning?

Could they document the trip and their reflection in any way they want?

Could the students let us know where they want to go and what they want to do there (and why they are there)?
IMG_3426On that note, with some misconnections on public transport some students were actively looking at maps and timetables. Could they plan our route? Our day? We are already toying with the idea of giving the planning duties over to them for our next trip.

Do we underestimate what 9 year olds are actually capable of?

What do you/your team/your school do to promote agency while on school trips?

Originally posted on March 22, 2018.


2 thoughts on “Agency on School Trips?

  1. Love this!

    In response to your last musing … We (Y2, 6/7yo) recently handed over all control of the planning of a field trip to the students, and it was great. The students wrote the school field trip form, wrote the parent letter, chose the public transport they wanted to take, mapped their routes, planned what to bring, calculated how much money they would need to bring and time we would have to leave, and passionately shared their plans with parents.

    During the trip there was not a worksheet in sight, just fully engaged students discussing and dissecting every step they took and every decision they made. Getting them to try and document this all would have simply diluted the conversations they were having. All of which was saved for the reflection the next day.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Awesome! I am sure this will be reassuring to the other grade 2/3 teachers knowing that students younger than ours have managed the same thing! We have a phone call in to the Apple Store for our next trip for one of their “action” workshops. So the process has already begun, but maybe thats a good thing in case it gets their hopes up? However… maybe that is taking something away from them too? Sorting through real life rejection of something they want to do? Hmm.. not sure. Too late for this trip anyways, but maybe something to think about for unit 6.


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