Illustration 1: Selecting a fieldwork site
Because fieldwork is geography outside the classroom, the question often raised with some alarm is 'Where can we go?'
You can take your class almost anywhere. Geography is all around us!
While choosing the site at which to undertake fieldwork can be a daunting task, this can be overcome by starting to plan long before you intend to undertake the fieldwork. Begin by brainstorming sites with colleagues, following through quickly to assess the worthiness of the site against the curriculum objectives, and then committing to the task.
This illustration provides a range of potential activities for each year level in the school grounds, nearby (a short distance from the school), and further afield. The latter generally requires transport.
Selecting a fieldwork site:
Fieldwork raises students' awareness of the world around them. Every day students see things that they have never seen before in their own community and come to understand their community better.
As fieldwork is about observation and measuring, collecting and collating data, and being perceptive about the environment. Skill development is essential:
- photographs analysed in class can improve the power of observation
- practising with equipment can develop measuring skills
- devising tables, completing and gathering class data can give confidence with the techniques (try a simple 'people count')
- acknowledging senses and expressing emotions assists students to connect with the environment.
Fieldwork sites are chosen for the value brought to curriculum objectives as well as the personal and social capabilities that can be achieved.
Questions for discussion
- What constitutes a 'good' site for the age group of students involved?
- How much classroom time is going to be spent in preparation for fieldwork and post-fieldwork activities? Can I afford that time with the 'crowded curriculum'?
- How do we cope with weather fluctuations or any other unforeseen circumstances?
- How will I know if the fieldwork has been successful?
Questions for reflection
- Did this fieldwork generate any challenging questions, speculation, curiosity or imaginative feedback?
- Was the collaborative work undertaken seen to strengthen student capabilities?
- While working in the environment, were students able to connect with the environment and acknowledge their personal roles and responsibilities as citizens?
- A personal reflection for the teacher: Did you learn something about the environment, about students or colleagues, and about your own citizenship?
Bourke, M. (2005). A guide to fieldwork in geography. Camberwell: Geography Teachers' Association of Victoria Inc., pp. 29–33 and 52–120.
Kleeman, G. (Ed.). (2008). Keys to fieldwork: Essential skills & tools. South Yarra: Macmillan, pp. 25–110.
Taylor, S. (2006). How to do fieldtrips without leaving the school/local community. Interaction 34(4). Camberwell: Geography Teachers' Association of Victoria Inc., pp. 45–48.