Keeping Learning Real, Relevant, and Relatable

Are Your Field Trips Real, Relevant, and Relatable?

We often spend most of our time on field trips sharing why our national treasures are significant. We spend less time getting to know students and connecting education standards to our sites. In her article “Keeping Learning Real, Relevant, and Relatable” published November 2, 2017, Peg Grafwallner shares the importance of making it real, relevant, and relatable by connecting speaking, listening, reading, and writing to help achieve content objectives.

Although the article is written for classroom teachers, many of the strategies can definitely transfer to our work in national parks. Below are some key takeaways from Peg Grafwallner.

Keep it Real

Students want to learn about things that have an impact on them in their daily lives. For example, when talking about culture, religion, and traditions, consider asking questions like:

  • How do our neighborhoods define us, our families, and our neighbors?
  • How has their community changed? How has it stayed the same?

Keeping it real means sharing their neighborhood and explaining in creative ways how we are tied to the culture, traditions, and people around us.

Keep it Relevant

Students want to be connected to their learning and in control of it. When planning a lesson, think about the connections students will be able to make.

I’d like to share an example that connects to national parks. We often require pre-visit activities for teachers and students. What if you asked students to write a “Dear Ranger” letter to tell you about their family, their academic background, and their hobbies? This might be too much if you have 10 field trips scheduled in one week, but many parks often work with teachers over a specific time through grant programs and much more. An activity like this would help the ranger learn a lot about their audience and according to Grafwallner, “[keep] students connected to their learning in a very personal way.”

Keep it Relatable

For this point, I’d like to share another example. When students arrive to your park or site, encourage students to look around. Ask students “what stands out?” and “what looks interesting?” Share your park resource with students based on their interest or questions they might have. According to Grafwallner, “empower students to share their passions, perceptions, and progress in a deeply meaningful and personal way.”


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