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Field Trips in E401 at Colorado State University

Written by Antero Garcia
May 07, 2013

Written and Created by: Linda Alexaner, Marie Huntzinger, Jacquelyn Wood.

Throughout our semester long Teaching Reading course at Colorado State University, our class had the valuable opportunity to extend our learning outside of the classroom and into the community. We were able to go on two field trips. The first trip we took was to a museum called El Museo. This space is a small museum dedicated to the lost voices in Hispanic community in Fort Collins Colorado. During our visit we were provided with ipads to document our experiences in “reading” the space. We reflected on how we would implement a field trip like this into our own classrooms and especially focusing on student’s ability to “read the space”. We did something similar at the Museum of Discovery at the end of Old Town in Fort Collins. This was a very different experience than the one we had at El Museo. We were able to participate interactively in the space, as well as experience it with multiple age groups. We took part in engaging in the space as a whole and it was fun watching kids run from station to station enjoying their experiences as much as we were. We almost felt like children in the space, or at least young at heart. During our trip to this museum, we not only read the individual objects inside of the museum, but the environment as a whole. We saw ourselves differently in this museum and were able to “read ourselves” in an entirely different way. Check out our video that we created above. 

Our class focused on learning how to read not only a text but also the spaces that reside in our communities. Through two different fieldtrips we got the chance to do this ourselves. We dug into two central questions to the course including: Read What? And Read how? Addressing what is it that we read, as well as how we read. Addressing the question on “what” we read, fieldtrips can extend students definitions of what we read from physical texts, to different spaces that we find ourselves in and what those do for us as well. These spaces allowed us to figure out how to discern different strategies for reading ourselves within these spaces, as well as the different areas within the museums. Every student brings in different personal experiences and connections to cultures allowing them to develop different strategies in reading these spaces in profoundly unique and personal ways.

Image originally uploaded on 2013-05-07 16:39

Image originally uploaded on 2013-05-07 16:40 

In each of these spaces, students are able to engage interactively with reading their environments. They participate actively in both museums and develop their own perceptions of the areas and cultures. This can also be reflected in their reading of complex text readings. As students become interactive participants in these fieldtrips, they can also become interactive readers for reading actual words on paper. For instance, after a field trip to El Museo, you can connect thier experiences to an in-class text such as  The Dreamer.  Students can develop writing prompts, make connections and create a fun and interactive environment that connects their experiences with El Museo to what is happening with particular characters in the Dreamer. Compare and contrast how they read El Museo to what they are reading with characters in The Dreamer’s hispanic backgrounds. You can build entire units off of a field trip. They are fun, interactive and extremely beneficial to students. 

Image originally uploaded on 2013-05-07 16:53

Below are some students in E401 and their responses to their experiences on the field trip to El Museo. The prompt was as follows: Thinking about the museum, what connections do you see to developing curriculum for the secondary ELA classroom? What similarities and differences do you note from El Museo?

Celia WeissmanMar 5, 2013 Reply

 In my experience with ELA, the most important strategy to remember is to differentiate and keep the teaching diverse and hands on. At the museum there were plenty of different options and hands on activities in which those “reading” the space and learning the environment could participate and indulge. My “Teaching English as a Second Language” teacher told me that students shouldn’t participate or engage in the same activity for more than 30 minutes maximum. This means, getting up, moving around, talking, large groups, small groups, taking a walk, engaging the teacher etc. The museum offered exactly that. The opportunity to engage in something new every couple of minutes or even seconds if one preferred. This is how our curriculum for ELA students should be. Diverse, differentiated, engaging, hands on and relatable for students

The main difference between the Museum of Discovery and EL Museo was the engagement. Everything in El Museo seemed so distant and old and historic. Everything in the Museum of Discovery was fresh, modern and engaging. It was hard to find the same kind of enjoyment in both places because of the distance I felt from one over the other. I felt like I was in a library when I was at El Museo, and I felt like a kid on a playground when I was Discovering. The main similarities were the historic images and articles spread around to speak to the history of Fort Collins. Though these were the least engaging parts of  both museums, they were similar in their alienation tactics.

Josh MortensenMar 5, 2013 Reply

I could definitely apply the development of ELA curriculum to experience from the Museum of Discovery, specifically comparing the way visitors interact with the museum to the way students interact with texts.  I believe that the action of “reading” the stations and activity centers in the Museum of Discovery requires the same kind of strategies that good readers need to take meaning from texts.

A student who has trouble using those reading strategies might be able to apply their experience in negotiating physical activities/puzzles to the way they read. For instance, in When Kids Can’t Read, good readers make predictions in the way that museum visitors predict that the mouthpiece fits into the open hole on each horn, and that when they blow into it sound will come out. In another example, good readers use their prior knowledge to inform their inferences. How many visitors used their prior knowledge about navigating technology with a touchscreen in order to interact with certain activities? In addition, when readers don’t understand a word, they use context to find the meaning. This can be related to the way that museum visitors do not understand the freaky forest at first, but then by reading the context of the water and plants, they understand how to manipulate objects and gain meaning from the activity. By creating activities in the classroom similar to those found in the museum, I can show my students how they already use reading strategies, and how they can apply that to reading texts.

Emma StewardMar 5, 2013 Reply

 What Jessee, Fairon and I noted on our way out of the museum was that we saw a lot of reading happening in the museum. Instead of mainly words we saw connections and inferences made through kinesthetic actions. The freaky forest for example: without directions it was difficult to know exactly what you were supposed to in the strange room. But once we saw children experimenting and making the waterfall move, a collective “ohhhh” of understanding occurred. This is the same sort of thing that can happen in the classroom. Experimenting and collaborating can be a much more memorable and fruitful way to learn than, say, reading the textbook. I realize this isn’t always a (good) option. But even English teachers can implement kinesthetic activities into their classroom to promote learning! It would also be particularly useful to students who learn in different ways. There are activities that can be tailored to kinesthetic, visual, auditory learners, or a combination of the three.

Image originally uploaded on 2013-05-07 17:06

It is clear that our entire class around this museum useful in thier collegiate experience and all benefited in thier understanding of teaching reading. Each and every one of us, because of our fieldtrip experiences now feel more confident and comfortable teaching students how to read in our future classrooms. 

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