Worsheets Don't Grow Dendrites ~ Field Trips (Chapter 3)


I'm joining up with my bloggy teacher friends today to focus on chapter 3 from our online book study of Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites by Marcia L. Tate. Today's focus is on FIELD TRIPS!!! I knew I was going to dig this chapter from the opening sentences... 

The purpose of the brain is not to make good grades 
or to score high scores on standardized tests. 
The brain has but one purpose--survival in the real world.
Is it any wonder that the places that you travel to
in the real world are long remembered?
(Tate, 2010, p. 26)

I think it is such a tragedy that standardized testing has really limited our ability to take our students on field trips... or even let them play outside at recess! Every single minute must be accounted for. I hope that this research can change people's minds about the effectiveness of quality field trips. 

I have witnessed first-hand how powerful quality field trips can be for students, especially those from high-poverty neighborhoods. It can be so difficult for students living in poverty to make real-world connections to the curriculum because they often lack the life experience to make those connections. Getting them out into the real-world is the best way to build that knowledge! People often think of field trips as a culminating event, but for our students in poverty, it is a critical life experience to build prior knowledge in order to prepare them for our lessons. 

It's amazing to me how much MORE students remember the content once they have had the opportunity to experience it first-hand. Their vocabulary and content-knowledge starts to skyrocket! No wonder Aristotle and Socrates (historically renowned teachers) spent so much time with their students on field trips! (Krepel & Duvall, 1981)

There is nothing quite like seeing those "lightbulb" moments with your students... when they just GET IT and they are smiles for miles! (I wish I could show you how happy their faces are in these pictures!) It seriously makes all the stress that goes along with a field trip (you know what I'm talking about!!! haha!!) WORTH IT.

One of the things I loved most about this chapter is that it encouraged the implementation on campus-based field trips and virtual field trips. I have not done these as often as I would like to do, but I have seen their effectiveness. For example, before reading The Journey: Stories of Migration by Cynthia Rylant, I like to take my kids on a virtual field trip to Africa during a locust swarm and coastal California to pet a grey whale... all via YouTube, of course! It really helps them connect to the text and understand the content with more depth.  

I also love that this chapter encouraged us to take our kids outside for our lessons when we can. Read-alouds are a great opportunity to get outside and enjoy the sunshine. If it has recently snowed, take your kids outside for 5 minutes to experience it with all their senses, then bring them back inside to write about it. Or better yet, have them take clipboards and write about winter while they are out in the snow! (Yes, I totally did this... and afterwards, their poems TOTALLY ROCKED!!!) 

I've honestly never seen my kids MORE engaged in our curriculum than when it has been tied to a well-planned, strategic field trip. Isn't this what we WANT?! They also remember the material LONG AFTER we move on to new subjects. 

I feel like I have used this strategy as much as I was permitted in the past, but there is definitely room for growth. I want to incorporate MORE on-campus field trips and MORE time outside. I want to use the research above to encourage the administrators in our district to permit our students to go on more field trips in the community. They are SO POWERFUL!

I made a list of ideas for on-site field trips that you might like to try based on my own previous experiences.  I hope you find it helpful! Click on the picture below to download the file. 

Be sure to head on over to Mrs. Wills Kindergarten to check out other posts from our book study! 


  1. I like your ideas for alternatives to "hop on the bus" field trips. I feel so motivated to get my kiddos outside of the four walls of our classroom {and make their way around our school!}...


    Crisscross Applesauce in First Grade

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