One of the great ways to build prior knowledge and to make learning meaningful is to find field trips that will supplement learning. To see how natural disasters and earth systems shaped landforms we are going to take a field trip to Sunset Crater, a dormant volcano, and to Walnut Canyon, a large canyon formed by water and weathering. Both have significant characteristics
On the field trip, we are going to hike both a volcano and a canyon. At each location we are looking for evidence of erosion, weathering, and deposition. This will be most visible and easy to determine at Walnut Canyon. On this portion of the field trip students will also see the importance of the canyon to early Native American groups. We will stop to discuss the reasons groups might have found this a suitable option for a home.
At Sunset Crater, students will be looking for various signs that a volcano one erupted here. For this volcano, it is a cinder cone. Students will see the lava field the cinders it created from eruption. We use cinders for various reasons in town and to help students connect to where and why we have an abundance of this rock is good. Students have an easy time connecting the rocks to their use in town, icy road traction and for decorative yard rock.
When we get back to school, students will discuss the wows and wonders of the field trip with their peers and as a whole class. This is where students will connect their learning to what they saw. To help them, prompting through discussion topics might be useful. I do this by asking about a specific event, like the cinders, and ask them to discuss all that they now know as a class. This is where students will develop each others thoughts and ideas. They can also confirm or correct their thinking by listening and talking it out with others.
The discussion component allows me to connect the field trip to learning. Students can often make the connection to the fun and some of the facts that amaze them, but having them apply the learning is something that needs to be facilitated by the teacher. The real world connections that can be made from life's experiences are fun to share with students. It helps build a love of learning.