Environmental education field trip: The importance of fifth grade students (10-11 years old) sociocultural experiences at a state park



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Field trips have declined due to many factors including lack of time because of standardized testing. Informal learning institutions generally offer complex, stimulating environments and activities that go beyond most experiences in the classroom, and therefore can activate a wider range of learning potentials. The purpose of the current mixed methods study was to examine the short-term and long-term effects of an environmental education school field trip on fifth grade students who visited Natural Tunnel State Park in Virginia. Research was conducted to see if students’ perceptions of the state park were changed after the field trip visit, and if students’ understanding of water quality testing changed based upon this experience. Prior to the field trip, students were given a pre-test on water testing and an open-ended pre-questionnaire on park importance and park activities. During the field trip, students participated in a guided hike and water testing stations. After the field trip, students were given a posttest on water testing and an open-ended post-questionnaire on park importance and park activities. One year after the field trip, students were given a supplementary questionnaire about their field trip memories. The pre-/posttest showed statistically no significant difference based on scores. Students showed ample improvement on the questionnaire both on describing what the park had to offer and why Natural Tunnel State Park was important and should be preserved. Student memories of the field trip one year later were descriptive. On the supplementary questionnaire, students stated they remembered completing water testing more than any other activity or event during the field trip.



Field Trip, State Park, Environmental Education, Education, Sociocultural Theory