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Educational Experimentation

r.graham.barrett's picture

For me our two field trips this past week to Ashbridge Memorial Park and our blind shuttle tour had a particular significance to them. In the last couple of web papers I have been trying to advocate new ecological teaching styles which are based on unorthodox experiences that take place outside the classroom. Although our fieldtrips were not based on accidental and personal experiences, they nonetheless still managed to encourage us to not limit our learning experiences to just the classroom. Rather the class field trips gave everyone the opportunity experiment with how we were soaking in the knowledge of our field trip.

                During the trip to Ashbridge, once we were given leave of the group and allowed to explore the park in whatever manner that best suited. The experimentation of how I wondered the park was based on a large part on how I once I received a cursory knowledge of the Park, I was given a free reign to use my understanding of the park to explore it and become intimate with it. For me this came in the form of jumping from one bank to the other so as to test the how the Mill Creek Restoration Project had strengthened the physical nature of the creek banks.  I noticed that for others explorations came in the form of climbing up trees, walking off the beaten paths alongside the creek or actually wading into the creeks. With such freedom to explore the park however we chose, we as students were able to add to the knowledge we had of the park via our personal experience of experimenting with how we interacted within it. Likewise the same could be said about the Blind Shuttle trip. Through trial and area I tried to find the best way to hold onto my guide and make sure I was not going to bump into anything by sweeping out my feet to feel for obstacles. But from this trial and error, I managed to learn that the best form of visualizing my surroundings wasn’t so much relying on myself to be a guide but rely on my guide and by extension the rest of the class. It was through noticing the slight variations in the whole lines movements that I manage to find the means to “see” where I was and know what to expect. Coming to understand the importance of the people in front of me relaying the information back to me, I gradually began to trust them. Just as I had started to trust my guides for leading me, the class as whole seemed to feel similar, as our efficiency in performing the exercise increased dramatically the second time even when we were forbidden to speak. The experimental experience of having our vision taken away from us then, managed to provide us with the means to teach us methods of reliance and trust and thereby understanding the surrounding environment even if we couldn’t witness it firsthand.  Both field trips then, by bringing us into unfamiliar territory, be it a new environment like the park or a familiar environment we couldn’t perceive entirely, turned us into teachers ourselves allowing us to interpret whatever information we picked up in experimental ways and learn from that with a more personal intimacy.