Taking Students on Off-Campus Fieldtrips

Shannon Hervey and the Rhetoric of Activism at an event in Oakland, CA

Off-campus field trips can greatly enrich your students' educational experience, moving the learning out of the classroom and into real spaces where students can make strong connections to the way the strategies and approaches they're developing in PWR have real-world applications.

The following tips are based in part on advice compiled by Sarah Pittock.

Off-Campus Field Trips and PWR

Although the pace of the quarter and the demands of the required assignment sequence make scheduling off-campus field trips a bit challenging for PWR 1 and PWR 2 classes, PWR classes have visited many sites, including the Exploratorium (a science-focused class), the San Jose Tech Museum (a class on the rhetoric of childhood), the foothills for horseback riding (the rhetoric of the west), and a classic movie theater (the rhetoric of film).

Keep in mind that you cannot penalize students for not attending class events outside of the usual scheduled class time, and there is a good chance that not all students will be available to attend the field trip.

Funding

You need to have the costs of your trip approved two weeks before you go by filling out a Course Activity Request Form.  Funds available for each section are ~$125.  Additional funding is available if the need is well argued. 

Transportation Options:

Taking public transportation - Marguerite and Caltrain can take students many places.  Give them a handout the class period before the trip that details the address of the destination and the transportation schedules, including additional times for the Marguerite and Caltrain should they need an alternative.  You can a set of clipper cards from the Finance Group for Caltrain.  Fill out the Clipper request form and send it to pwrbusinessteam@stanford.edu well in advance of your planned field trip.

Meet at the Caltrain station at an appointed time.  The Palo Alto Caltrain station is about a 15-20 minute walk from most parts of campus, or 5-10 minutes on bike.

Reserving a vehicle to use for the field trip - There are no Stanford vehicles available for rental, although you could rent a van yourself through a rental company like Enterprise to use for a field trip.

If you want to take more than 7-8 students in one vehicle, the Marguerite has some small buses available, and those run around $300-$400 for a 4-5 hour trip.  Contact PT&S to arrange for these small buses.  However, you need to get approval for this expense before reserving the van.  Get approval by writing pwrbusinessteam@stanford.edu.

Timing:

Some reading before the trip can help set up critical thinking/academic context, but if you plan the trip earlier in the quarter, it will likely faciltate bonding between the students in the section. 

Consider planning before and after activities to make the most of the trip.  After the trip, students might develop presentations about what they experienced off campus, they might write reflectively, or they might think about how the evidence gathered on the trip contributes to their final research projects.

Additional Ideas:

Before the field trip

  • If possible, visit the site ahead of time so you know what to expect and can design the field trip based on your own experience.  This will help you understand not only timing (how long it will take you to walk from place to place), but also key features (which aspects of the site you should focus on and which you should skip), contact people (introduce yourself to the person who might guide your tour), and even accessibility concerns (so you can make sure the trip is accessible to all your students).
  • Prepare ahead of time in class for the field trip through relevant readings, conversations, or research as a class.  Develop an agenda together, and set goals for the field trip, or questions that have to be answered. Clearly establish the learning goals and how it relates to the work students are already doing in your class.  This preparation not only sets up a context for the event and ties it to your course work, but it also generates excitement among the students.
  • Make sure students are clear on the schedule, any assignments or activities they need to do, and expected behaviors (for instance, if you want them to take the tour and not wander off on their own, be sure you tell them that).
  • You might even tie the field trip to an assignment if it is required of your students or format it as a scavenger hunt to gamify the experience.
  • When possible frame or connect the field trip and experiences to strategies, goals, or assignments tied to your class so students understand how it contributes to their learning in the course.  For instance, a field trip can provide opportunity for rhetorical analysis or primary research/fieldwork for a research project.

During the field trip

  • During the field trip, take photos to share later and use social media (whether just among your students or more broadly using the  PWR Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram accounts) to share about the trip. You might even use social media or email to connect the class ahead of time with someone you'll meet during the field trip (such as a curator or tour guide) to foster a stronger connection
  • Make sure that students have each other's contact information, and if you split up, set up a check-in time (virtual or otherwise) to make sure students are on tack with the agenda and any assignments

After the field trip

  • Have the students complete a writing or presentation assignment related to the field trip, and/or be sure to discuss it in class. You could also ask them to use a class blog as a way to reflect on the experience and what they learned.

Forms

All completed forms should be sent to pwrbusinessteam@stanford.edu.  These forms are located in the "Letterhead and Forms" folder on the PWR canvas site.