Fieldwork Challenges and Benefits

Of course, VFEs also allow for some kind of “fieldwork” experience when actual fieldwork is difficult or impossible to carry out. The reasons that actual fieldwork is difficult are fairly obvious:

  • Fieldwork is logistically challenging. It’s hard to fit into a typical class period, or even a double lab period. To go off site requires permission slips, busing, and figuring out how to deal with behavior outside the normal classroom setting.
  • It costs money. Field trip budgets have been slashed, and weren’t even very common at the secondary level before budget cuts.
  • Many teachers have only limited experience doing field science themselves. Earth science has more teachers teaching out of field than any other science discipline, and fieldwork is not a component of many Earth, biology, or environmental science teacher certification programs. It is intimidating to lead fieldwork if you haven’t been through it yourself.
  • Fieldwork poses safety and behavior concerns different from those in the classroom. Falling off a cliff has different consequences than falling off a chair.
  • Teaching in the field employs a different set of skills than teaching in the classroom. The logistics of moving groups of students from place to place and focusing their attention on the goals of the fieldwork takes careful planning, especially if multiple classes are involved.

These issues shouldn’t preclude fieldwork, but they undeniably complicate it. These challenges are not insignificant, but the rewards of doing fieldwork are worth the trouble. Field trips are among the most memorable and most valued school experiences.