Here's an interesting article about Harlem Success Academy, a??New York City charter school whose kindergarten field trip to a farm is more than a cute story about pumpkins and cows.
"The schools haul their students to a farm each year, hoping to expose them to rural life and lift their [test] scores," since questions on New York state tests often center on "livestock, crops, and other staples of the rural experience." A Harlem Success Academy teacher explains, "[the students] are good at reciting and remembering things, but they can't make the connection unless you show it to them."
For most students growing up in urban environments, state test questions that include passages about milking, plowing, cornstalks, and pumpkins are foreign and therefore more challenging, and "educators have long known that prior knowledge of a subject can significantly improve a child's performance on tests."
Though there's no way of knowing the precise impact that such field trips will have on Harlem Success students' test results, this charter school is right to emphasize the importance of content and background knowledge, especially for young readers. Such "real-world" learning might even impress the "21st century skills" camp, although the purpose for Harlem Success Academy's field trips seems less about?? fostering critical thinking, innovation, or creativity (those buzzwords that 21st century folks have a proclivity for) and more about overcoming deficiencies in background knowledge experienced by their...