Field trips are critical. Learning Earth science in the field is as important as learning to cook in a kitchen. Why then do we expect teachers and their students to learn about the wonders of our dynamic planet from a dry text book? Its crazy!
Field-based learning is just so important in Earth science. Seeing and understanding the relationships between rocks and working out geological timing and mechanisms by examining field evidence is what geoscience is all about. Seeing the scale of information - from the size of sand grains and crystals to how the rocks they contain build massive landforms requires being in the field.
But more importantly, the excitement and wonder for our Earth's needs to take place outside - not looking at a a picture (or even a video) of amazing phenomenon.
Field trips - but for who?
Now I am a realist. I know that we just can't ship a load of students to an active volcano on a field trip - the cost would be beyond the reach of most. However, the next best thing is to make sure that the people who inspire those students to pursue their own science experiences (their teachers) do get on field trips. Even if it is just one amazing field trip experience in their career - they should do it! It will inspire them to be better Earth science teachers. It will provide then enthusiasm and passion for science which they will pass on to their students. Surely that is what we want our teachers to be like - full of passion and enthusiasm for the subject they teach?
In my experience I have seen field trips change teachers lives. It makes them have an understanding for the planet that they have not even considered they could have. I have watched their faces as the geological 'penny has dropped' when they work out a geological problem in the field. I have seen their inner child burst with joy when they have seen lava flow or the glow of a lava pool. I have heard then talk years later of the amazing experience and how they use it in their classroom.
I will keep leading teacher field trips until my legs can't take it any more. Why? Because I think I owe it to them and all the students they inspire to make a difference. I guess it's my passion.
You can find out more about the GEOetc field trip adventures here.