All of the fieldtrips are curriculum integrated, and even though the most obvious link are science, maths, environmental education, there have been other focii such as health, art and history. For example, a recent fieldtrip involved students working with Ngāi Tahu visiting sites around Timaru, making the pigments, history, contemporary use etc. Vicki mentioned that the curriculum objectives are really useful, and helps her to engage students with relevant authentic activities and tasks. Many of the fieldtrips are aimed across sectors, and can be adapted for junior secondary.
Teachers can send a class mascot or toy, for $30, on a trip. Each of the mascots has their own page. It helps cement the relationship and gives a bit of buy in. Vicki was a bit unsure that Intermediate students would buy into having a mascot go on a trip, but she found that having a mascot involved, and reading their ambassador's diary really helped engaged the students. Barrie also mentioned that secondary schools have had similar experiences. Anne K, in the chat said "Love the idea of a mascot travelling.... adds another dimension to the class involvement. [Brings] an almost face to face dimension tot he virtual trip". Ambassadors are usually returned, although there was a recent fatality rafting the Tongariro.
Students can post questions on the forums for the experts on the fieldtrips. Using an landline phone, Skype, and the audio bridge, students are able to connect with folk on the field trips via audioconferences, and post their questions in advance. Vicki mentioned that the "kids get quite a buzz out of being involved", and Pete said "Visual learning in a shared group is much less threatening than learning by yourself so there is a greater level of focus as you are supported". Often there are students from a number of schools, geographically dispersed, all online and asking questions at the same time. There is no video with it, for many reasons, but Vicki advised that "When we are listening I tend to have a print out of the questions for the students to make notes on. Gives them focus". One teacher commented "Sometimes our computers don't oblige and that can be frustrating for the kids and me - that’s a school issue but does affect how we use the website. But this won’t put me off continuing to use LEARNZ as for the children who take part, it is the audio conference that stays with them. And for me especially it is the way Andrew relates to the children - his commitment and warmth come through in all his interactions, even though he has done these trips before he always makes them fresh and exciting".
The videos are one of the biggest learning opportunities and a couple of iterations later the videos are being put on to Vimeo, and are being accessed by mobile devices, as well as being downloaded to local machines or networks to be watched. Examples of videos can be accessed at:
- http://kidsrestorethekepler132.learnz.org.nz/ (Usr: webinar1Pwd: webinar1); and
Kids are challenged to 'do' something, and to take it to the next level. Schools have been inspired to create their own trips, and Pete shared that "Ah yes we do hear of schools organising their own trips - Stuart Cook from Methven School has a great story to tell about that". Barrie shared that if you are interested in signing up for any of the fieldtrips you can:
- Register: http://www.mylearnz.org.nz/index/register
- To choose field trips: http://www.learnz.org.nz/field-trip-chooser.php
- And to get started: http://help.learnz.org.nz/getting-started/