Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Field Trip to the Farm: Make YOUR Next Outing Your Best Learning Experience Yet

Today we took a trip to Vale Wood Farm.  It was overcast and rainy and even a little cold, but we still enjoyed the farm animals, pumpkin picking, "milking" of the "cow", and playing in an enormous box of dried corn (well, until we saw a mouse).

In preparation for our trip to the farm, we did some really fun learning activities.  And, of course, read a farm-related book.  Baby bookworm enjoyed telling the farmer's helper (or wife maybe?) all about the things she learned earlier in the morning!  Check out what we did.....

1) First, we read the Big Red Barn by Margaret Wise Brown (yes, the same author of the Goodnight Moon) and illustrated by Felicia Bond. 

Big Red Barn by Margaret Wise Brown

It's a cute story (that is very appropriate for both babies and toddlers) about all of the animals that live in a barn - the sounds they make and the things they do in a day.  It follows a very poetic rhythm, much in the same way that Goodnight Moon does, that makes it a comforting tale.  The pictures are delightful, too.

Big Red Barn Craft with Animal Stampers

2) Then, we did a little craft with animal stampers (these can be purchased fairly cheap from somewhere like Oriental Trading).  As baby stamped each animal on the page, we talked about the sound that each animal makes and some other characteristic about the animal (such as, a cow gives us milk, and a hen lays eggs). 

3) Then, we did a matching game with farm animals.  We sang Old McDonald Had a Farm....and I asked her to match each animal on the paper.  It was a great review of animal names, and sounds! 

4) Last but not least, we took our trip to the farm.  And, if you have any doubts that activities such as the ones listed above help a child to learn EVEN MORE while on a "field trip" - I assure you, they do!!!!  Not only do they help to stir up interest and excitement about the event, they help to repeat/reinforce the concepts we learned earlier (and repetition = learning), and they help to provide some base knowledge about new concepts or ideas that you may encounter on your trip.  Be sure to make explicit connections though!  Anyway, here are some of my favorite shots from the day.

And on that farm he had some....cows....
and pigs....
and chickens....
and tractors...

And corn in a sandbox!

And a fake cow to milk....

A little science...

More science...

And the yummiest ice cream ever!
Remember learning is a process!  Baby bookworm has been learning about farm animals since infancy through nursery rhymes, books, and songs.  Today she reviewed many previously learned concepts, and expanded on her knowledge.  She learned that a cow not only says "moo" and lives on a farm, but also gives us milk and ice cream; a pig not only says "oink" but it lives in a pig pen. 

Take a look at a few easy strategies that I use while on a field trip like this to take it from being just a fun event, to a real learning situation! 

Learning About Learning from Jean Piaget

Jean Piaget was a Swiss psychologist who made some important contributions to our understanding of learning and cognitive development.  Of course, his theories have been scrutinized over the years, but he is still considered one of the great pioneers in the field of psychology and education.  According to Piaget…

● learners are active beings who actually create/construct their own knowledge

● learning must not stress isolated parts, but must be integrated and clearly organized 

● social interaction and language are valuable tools for learning and gaining developmentally-appropriate skills, especially when that interaction occurs between two peers who are functioning at about the same level of understanding

● cognitive development relies on two mechanisms that occur simultaneously: assimilation and accommodation.  In order to learn, a child must be able to assimilate, or incorporate new elements of the environment, into his or her own existing schema.  At the same time, a child must accommodate, or modify his or her knowledge, to meet the demands of the environment

● when a child encounters a problem or situation that he or she cannot assimilate into his or her current knowledge, they are thrown into a state of contradiction or puzzlement (or disequilibrium); this state is crucial to learning because it leads to an orderly reorganization of concepts, which leads to a higher level of understanding

So what does this mean in practical terms for you (the parent, caregiver, or teacher)?

*Try to engage a child’s previously learned knowledge; make a bridge between what is known/previously conceived and the new learning material

*Challenge your child – pose questions and problems for him or her to solve to push their understanding of concepts to a higher level

*Actively cooperate with your child and discuss things in your environment; that is, hold a conversation with them where they can equally contribute to the topic

I hope your next field trip becomes your next best learning experience yet!


  1. My little one adores The Big Red Barn, even at only 6 months! I love the idea of priming her through reading and activities at home to gain more from a field trip. Seems this schema can be applied to many different outings (i.e., grocery store, zoo). Thanks for the great ideas, Dr. Marissa!

  2. This was the first time we read this book, but great to know babies like it as well! Yes, this strategy works well for many outings, and I highly recommend it for visits to the doctor! After spending so many years in a data/research field it's honestly amazing to see first hand how well all of the concepts we learned in school actually DO work! It's also nice to know a psychologist is reading.


Blogger Widgets