“Is it better to bring the students on a tour of the zoo before we study the unit, or is it better to prepare them first?” a teacher friend once asked me when Chuck and I were docents leading school tours at the Denver Zoo.
From our experiences at the Denver Zoo and now on the hikes we lead at Imperial National Wildlife Refuge north of Yuma, Arizona, we can say without hesitation that preparing students before the field trip (or before a classroom presentation) is essential. Children prepared with background on a subject are more motivated to pay attention and participate in a classroom presentation or on a field trip than those who have no focus.
Teachers who prepare their students arm them with information that provides tools to help them absorb their field trip experience. Students are better equipped to answer questions and form questions of their own. Unprepared students are generally bored with a subject in which they have no background and consequently may not pay attention.
Paying attention includes teachers. We have observed that teachers who pay attention to our programs and guided tours set an example that is likely followed by their students. No matter how many times a teacher has witnessed the presentation or gone on a field trip, we appreciate his or her continued attention, as well as their monitoring of their students.
Our thanks to all the wonderful teachers we’ve worked with!