While we as teachers can ensure that our everyday learning environment is set up to meet the individual needs of each of our students, learning that occurs beyond the classroom can also be invaluable.
Learning experiences that ‘bring the outside world in’ offer unique opportunities for students to understand the bigger picture and the world they live in.
Incursions and excursions are common ways to facilitate beyond the classroom learning. For students, incursions and excursions offer information that is ‘contextually relevant’ (Lorenza, 2009) – which is not always possible within the classroom.
To exemplify this, just imagine your class is undertaking a unit on sustainability and global warming. Now imagine complementing and extending the learning occurring within this unit with a visit to the Gould League in Victoria where students can participate in a session tailored to suit the topics they are learning about, can be led by a trained educator who is an expert in their field, and can see real-life examples of what they have been studying within the classroom.
The concepts they have researched in the classroom are now being contextually presented, providing a platform for enhanced and enriched learning. Furthermore, we are encourage students to understand that valuable learning experiences take place in the real world and are certainly not limited only to the classroom.
A resource I used in researching this excursion was a website called ‘Cursions’. On this website you are able to select the subject, year level and distance from your school. The website then compiles a list of possible incursion.
Social and emotional learning is also highly likely to occur within these settings as students are encouraged to cooperate with their peers, interact in unknown environments, problem solve and engaging in effective decision making.
However, many teachers experience challenges in incorporating excursions and incursions into their program. Common challenges include finding suitable and appropriate incursions and excursions, transport and budget issue and finding accompanying adults. Teachers can also commonly fall into the trap of treating excursions and incursions as ‘time off’. When in fact valuable learning opportunities are missed and students are likely to be disengaged with what is being presented to them when it is not authentically incorporated into the program. Teachers must also follow up with rich and meaningful reflective tasks (Lorenza, 2009).
For students, leaving the safe confines of the school grounds can be a challenging and daunting experience. For those who suffer from anxiety issues, leaving school to attend an excursion may seem like an impossible task. Further, when teachers fail to embed incursions and/or excursions into their program they may find a severe level of disengagement from their students as they struggle to comprehend the relevance of information being presented to them.
Lorenza, L. (2009). Beyond four walls: why go beyond the bounds of school? [online]. Teacher. (198), 22-25.
Johnson, J. (2009). Beyond four walls: experiential and situated learning. Teacher. (198), 18-20.