I was watching a show on Hawaii with my parents tonight on the Smithsonian Channel (they get waaayy cooler channels than I do), and watching a surfer catch a wave, thinking, “That’s physics in action.” The way the surfer has to understand the physical motion of the wave, calculating for speed and force, adding in the importance of placement for the perfect balance at the point where the wave crests and the barrel is just beginning. It was utterly beautiful.
My students believe that physics is something in a classroom lab. It doesn’t exist outside the walls of the school. Neither do the reading strategies I offer them, the scientific process, the history lessons they learn, or the books they read. They kind of understand that they’ll have to do math in the “real world”, but since they have calculators, even that is beginning to show a real loss of importance. I have no way of showing them the applications of what we learn in school because of the very fact that we are in school.
Upon reflection, I am beginning to realize just how important a field trip really is. Not only is it a way to emphasize a lesson’s worth outside the classroom walls, it is ideal for information synthesis. One of the things I really think we are missing in schools is the ability to show the students that nothing is in isolation. It’s like all of the lessons are in a vacuum, and I think there is a great importance in showing how the idea of physics meets surfing or shipbuilding, how history is related to literature and psychology and politics, how chemistry is related to art and music.
I wonder if the idea of field trips was no longer considered a 4-letter word would our students begin to naturally acquire the skills and thoughts we find so important? That real world application seems to be lacking in the current model – and I think to the students’ disadvantage.