Fieldtrips are visits to communities project, field sites or other sites organised by the trainer, where participants can observe different situations relevant to their training. The trainer should guide the participants to what they should be looking out during the field trip, and give them specific projects to write up and present in class afterwards. Fieldtrips require careful preparation in order to allow participants to fully benefit from them (JSI 2005).
Fieldtrips have been a part of education for a long time.A carefully planned and integrated fieldtrip offers tremendous learning potential for participants remembering the saying “seeing is believing”. Field visit or outdoor based learning is any learning activity, exercise or simulation that can be conducted outside the classroom environment and so is out of the traditional learning environment.
Many trainers believe that this type of training does work, provided the field visit is planned and executed well. This includes clear objectives, skilled facilitation, a plan to transfer the knowledge gained back to the job and credible evaluation. Field visits are good to initiate participants mingling and group problem-solving exercises.
Fieldtrips are only as good as their preparation: some forward planning can make all the difference to its success. Making sure you have well-briefed facilitators, chairs and presenters will also help ensure the success of your event.
Preparation of Field Visit
In order to make a fieldtrip successful, a good preparation is crucial. The preparatory activities include:
a) Research on and Selection of Field Visit Sites
In relation to SSWM, there could be various objectives in regards to the site and the field visit as such:
a) visit a project that demonstrates the theoretical practices that you have taught in your course physically, i.e. a project where water management, sanitation and agriculture are linked successfully. This will motivate participants and further foster their understanding.
b) You could of course also visit projects that show only parts of SSWM – a water distribution plant, an organisation building toilets, a farmer working with biogas – etc. In that way, make sure participants are encouraged to create missing links, and understand problems.
c) You could also visit a site with problems in regards to water management and sanitation (e.g. a slum with a lacking water / sanitation access). This helps trainees to understand the problems and respective solutions.
b) Logistical Preparation
In order that the field visit runs smoothly, you need to prepare the following issues:
- Number of participants: How many participants take part in the fieldtrip?
- Date and time: When will the fieldtrip take place (have you considered possible weather impairments). What is the exact meeting point and departure time?
- Access: What is necessary that participants reach the site? Do you need a bus transport, or do participants arrive individually at the site? Is the site accessible also for handicapped? Plan for enough time so that you can also carry out the visit if there is a traffic jam or any other problem.
- Catering / Overnight stay:Is an overnight stay required? What about food?
- Equipment: Do you need any special equipment (e.g. shovels, watering cans, gloves etc.). Do participants require special clothing (rain jacket, good shoes etc.)
- Language: Do you need translators?
c) Preparation of an Instructional Document
Prepare an instructional document stating objectives and learning outcomes of the trip. This document will help you to plan the field visit. This phase of any fieldtrip is perhaps the most demanding and time consuming, but is crucial to the success of the experience for everyone.
Research has shown that participants given pre-trip instruction learn and retain more from a fieldtrip than those who receive no preparation. In the field visit instruction document the following information should be included:
- General Information: Obtain a rough map for reference.
- Schedule and timeline: Including exact hours for meeting points, and contact numbers (mobile!).
- Specific information: Review of existing information on the project site, experiences, and potentially some important documents on the subject (reader-like). This is a must!
- Questions: Identify and prioritise an initial list of key questions and potential sources for the answers (key informants, sites to visit, things to observe). Clearly identify sensitive issues. All these will be based on the purpose of the visit (to size up a reported problem or to check program implementation), as well as the review of background information.
During the Field Visit
Have a field coordinator for the field visit. This is very important to have a designated person who can facilitate the whole visit and take the responsibility for the whole planning of the program. This person should be an expert on the subject, so he/she can really provide participants with additional information and can answer upcoming questions.
Participants have to be asked to collect all the information they read, hear, observe, see and feel. You can provide specific questions in the overview document. Encourage the participants to be open-minded and flexible. They may have to adjust their expectations and plans on arrival. Encourage them to build relationships with the group members and to respond to their needs and interests as much as possible.
After the Field Visit
Allow time to relax. If your field visit has been to a site that is emotionally challenging, provide enough time for participants to exchange experiences and to answer questions.
Provide time after the visit to prepare presentations/feedback on what they learned through the visits. The next day, or any time after the visits, you could reflect on the learning. If the experience has been emotionally challenging, allow for sufficient time to exchange on these experiences. Encourage other participants to ask questions so that everyone can learn from the experience.
Fieldtrips are a good method for instruction, as they bring in another dimension to learning. Many people find it easier to remember or understand something if they get a chance to see and experience it directly. Furthermore, fieldtrips also allow for a direct interaction between experts, politicians, end-users or any other group that is visited and the trainees themselves. However, fieldtrips require careful preparation. Trainees can profit better from fieldtrips if they already have some knowledge about the subject and come well prepared (questions, expectations etc.).