Connecting Students to the Collection: A New Field Trip App

Lightning Talk
Miranda Kerr, Shedd Aquarium, USA

Shedd Aquarium has reimagined the school group experience to challenge the notion that field trips are an out-of-class unstructured visit and demonstrate that a field trip is a constructive learning opportunity that is relevant and valuable to today’s teachers and students. Over two years, supported by the Institute of Museum and Library Sciences, a cross-departmental team researched the needs of teachers, students, staff, and chaperones, and then piloted and created in-house field trip programs based in tablet apps.

The Science Tech Trek apps were designed as an immersive technology experience, connecting K-5 students to our animals and exhibits. These apps are not gallery guides, but instead direct students to look closer at the animals, make predictions, record data like a scientist, and create a digital journal. Teachers automatically receive an electronic copy of the students’ work created in the app during the field trip to track their learning, and build upon their experiences during post-trip classroom activities.

Since Science Tech Treks were launched in the fall of 2015, there have been 119 program registrations by schools, impacting 3,366 students. In January 2016, we will be executing evaluation plans that include reviewing the archived student work to determine if we are meeting learning outcomes. Evaluation staff will also be observing groups of students to determine how they interact with exhibits before and after the Science Tech Trek experience.

During this Lightning Talk, attendees will see a demonstration of our Science Tech Treks experience along with a sample of the student-created product. The interdepartmental collaboration that allowed us to create Science Tech Treks in-house will be discussed. Finally, preliminary data that demonstrates how learners are using inquiry skills and identifying connections to animals will be shared.

Numerous articles were referenced as we researched for the school groups reimagined process, covering school groups in museums, chaperones, and other aspects of field trips. We are currently in the process of writing our grant report to Institute of Museum and Library Sciences, and have referenced many publications, but that grant report is not ready to be shared at this time. By no means a complete list, but here are a couple examples of publications that were considered. "Teachers, Museums, and Worksheets: A Closer Look at Learning Experience" Kisiel 2003. "Field Trips and Parent Chaperones" Parsons & Muhs 1995.