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December 1998 - Issue No. #33 (p.12 - 13)

Designing Environmental Field Trips

by Greg Goodmacher (Kwassui College, Japan)

Teachers looking for ways to make their language students consider nature and environmental issues should take them on field trips. Field trips bring students face to face with real issues and help students to connect global problems with their local environments (and vice versa). They are also a refreshing change from the normal school routine. Whether you teach in a city or in the countryside, a variety of valuable field trip locations are waiting for you to utilize them. I have been able to take students to two nearby parks and one zoo during school time. Another teacher at my university arranged for a school bus to drive students to a tour of a city garbage incinerator. At another place I taught at, one teacher had his students walk along city streets with the task of surveying and recording the amount and variety of trash. The location of your school, teaching schedules, and administrative policies may be constraining factors. To take students to an island, students and I had to use our free time on a Saturday. I didn't mind, though, because the lessons the students learned were important, the students and I developed a better relationship, and we had a good time.

Tips for enjoyable, successful field trips:

  1. provide clear directions to the location

  2. make sure students know exactly what they must bring along

  3. assign tasks which make students investigate the environment

  4. bring students together at the end of the field trip (or at the next class) to discuss the experience

  5. create a variety of thought-provoking follow-up teaching activities

A Field Trip to a Local Island

The following is the handout I gave my students before our field trip to a local island:

Our Trip to Io Island

I would like us to go to Io Island and have fun together while doing something good for the environment. We'll take a short hike, see beautiful views, eat lunch, play games, and clean up a beach.

When and Where: May 24. Please be inside the Ohato Ferry Building by the ticket machines at 10:00. The boat leaves at 10:15. We will leave Io Jima to return to Nagasaki City around 2:00. You can leave earlier or stay later if you want.

What Should We Bring: Comfortable walking shoes, money for the ferry. It costs 600 yen each way. Bring your lunch. Please try not to buy food wrapped in a lot of plastic because plastic is bad for the environment. Waribashi (disposable chopsticks) are also bad for the environment. Bring bags for picking up garbage and gloves, if you want them. If the weather is warm, you might want to bring sun block and a swimming suit. You can also bring friends along too, if you want.

We started this trip with a small hike around the island during which we examined the plant life and the animals, and discussed edible plants. We had lunch together and then did the following scavenger hunt (the winning team got chocolate brownies).

Beach Scavenger Hunt

The first group that finds all of the following things is the winning group:

   * A coffee can             * A soft drink can           * A ball
   * A feather                * A plastic bag              * A flower
   * An old shoe              * A piece of glass           * A leaf
   * A piece of fishing string or fishing net
   * A shell smaller than your teacher's thumbnail

After the scavenger hunt, we cleaned up a stretch of beach. Once the garbage was collected, we categorized the types of garbage and tried to imagine the damage it could do to the ecosystem. I had students look at our garbage pile and imagine:

  1. how large it would be if we had cleaned up all the beaches on this small island?

  2. how large it would be if we had cleaned up all the beaches in the whole of Kyushu?

  3. how large it would be if we had cleaned up all the beaches in the whole of Japan?

In this way, I connected the local problem with a global problem. Pointing out some garbage that had Korean writing on it, I was also able to demonstrate that environmental problems do not stop at national boundaries.

A Field Trip to a Local Park

Field trips don't have to be to far-off destinations. The following is the worksheet I gave students for a field trip to a local park:

As you walk around your area of the park, please count the different types of...

   Insects:      _______________     Plants:     __________________
   Fish:         _______________     Birds:      __________________
   Other animals: ______________     (What were they? _____________)

Write answers to the questions below. You must think hard for these answers.

   How has the river changed since 100 years ago?
   How might the river change in the next 100 years?
   What garbage do you see in and near the river?
   Is any of the garbage dangerous for plants and animals? How could it be dangerous?
   What do you think of this park?


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Kip A. Cates, Tottori University, Koyama, Tottori City, JAPAN 680-8551
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