Is This More Than a Field Trip? Exploring Memories of Teton Science Schools' Field Education Program

Maryellen Amen, University of Wyoming

Abstract

For more than two decades, upper elementary students in one of the larger school districts in Wyoming have participated in Teton Science Schools’ Field Education Program (TSS). During this time, the district has sent hundreds of students. Since the expense of the program often exceeds school budgets, teachers and students are often involved in fundraising. This research examined the memories of students who were some of the district’s first attendees. In this qualitative study, the teacher and six of the 13 students were interviewed. Three of the six students participated in a focus group. The participants expressed a variety of episodic memories related to specific events during the trip as well as semantic memories that they felt have an impact in their lives today. Through coding three themes emerged. The students had the greatest number and most powerful memories of the preparation and fundraising the class did prior to the trip and of how the preparation impacted their experience at TSS. Second, the students remembered and related a sense of place to their lives today. Finally, the students related their experience at TSS to their sense of self often citing memories of successes and challenges encountered there. All six students agreed that the trip was a valuable experience and hope that the district continues support it. However, more research into the long-term memories and impacts of place-based, outdoor field science education programs is needed.