Changing the landscape of field trips

Dr. Kevin Krahenbuhl’s Geography for Elementary Teachers class at Dakota State University has taken a unique approach to the traditional field trip experience. Krahenbuhl’s class and fourth graders from Madison Elementary school recently took a co-university and elementary school field trip to the United States Geological Survey Earth Resources Observation and Science Center (USGS EROS) in Sioux Falls, S.D. This partnership between the university and elementary school is one the newest ways that DSU is looking to better prepare teachers by providing real world experiences.

Krahenbuhl’s idea for the co-university and elementary field trip came up simply from his experiences leading field trips, having a class in geography, and having USGS EROS located very close and providing an opportunity for experiential learning. 

“I have led field trips a lot as a K-12 teacher and found that those experiences were powerful and memorable, so I wanted to link it to our pre-service teachers,” stated Krahenbuhl. “I contacted Principal Dan Walsh and presented my plan, which he approved and identified the 4th grade as a good group to use for this field trip. I then contacted USGS EROS and met with EROS Communications and Outreach staff to set up the date, create the activities during the event, and prepare my students for the trip. Madison Elementary was great to work with and EROS was immensely helpful in this process; it really made a great experience for all involved.” 

During the visit to EROS, the students learned how satellites are used to help track changes over time including remote sensing, geographical / geological issues and impact of humans on the environment. The students gained other knowledge during the field trip as well, like the purpose of the USGS EROS and why they are located in South Dakota, along with other miscellaneous facts such as how far a satellite is from earth as opposed to the moon or sun. 

Because the local school districts are dealing with very tight budgets, the DSU College of Education assisted with the costs for the field trip. “The DSU College of Education can serve its community by providing such enrichment experiences. The field trip allowed approximately 100 fourth graders to participate in the field trip, along with 12 DSU students that helped lead the tour,” stated Krahenbuhl. 

The DSU students designed pre-visit lessons for the fourth graders, and worked with EROS outreach experts to coordinate activities and tours of the site. They also lead a debriefing lesson after the field trip at the elementary school. 

“The EROS field trip was a great educational opportunity for our fourth graders. We are grateful to Kevin Krahenbuhl and DSU for providing this meaningful experience for our students at Madison Elementary,” stated Walsh. 

It was a mutually rewarding experience for both the fourth graders and the DSU university students. The elementary students received an opportunity to learn outside of the regular classroom environment, and the university students experienced the real-world opportunity of leading the field trip. The activity enhanced the collaborative relationship between DSU and Madison's public schools and has connected DSU and USGS EROS in what is expected to be a continuing and expanding partnership. 

Madison Elementary fourth grade teacher, Marletta Eich said, “Dr. Kevin Krahenbuhl and his DSU students had my fourth grade students hooked from the beginning.  The DSU pre-lessons instilled a high anticipation for the EROS field trip.  My students found the actual EROS field trip of extreme interest.  The fourth graders enjoyed seeing and learning again from their new found DSU friends/teachers during the post lesson.  The DSU / fourth grade partnership provided a unique opportunity and top notch educational experience all the way around.  The only thing that would make it better is if it becomes an annual event!”

Last Updated: 4/17/13