Field Study

Field Study: Learning Beyond the Classroom Walls
The Reverend Janice Robbins, Chaplain Emeritus

Field trips are an integral part of the classroom. These special experiences extend classroom walls into environs where first-hand observation and informal instruction provide invaluable learning opportunities. Additionally, traveling off campus offers educators the occasion to extend curriculum in ways that are not possible in the classroom. Trips to hospitals, fire stations, the Creative Discovery Museum, the Tennessee Aquarium, and Audubon Acres keep the learning experience fresh, interesting, relevant, and exciting. Attending cultural events such as plays and concerts at the Tivoli Theatre and Memorial Auditorium and special exhibitions at the Hunter Museum of American Art and the High Museum in Atlanta introduce students at an early age to the importance cultural institutions of their community. Studying outside the classroom gives students a sensible and economical real life experience of the greater world in which they will live.

St. Nicholas provides two very important field trip adventures for older students. These trips have become signature events for students. Taken in Upper Primary, these trips are special, well-planned, and richly educational. More importantly, they speak to the content core areas of science and social studies.

While in Level 6, students journey to Earthshine, a retreat located on LakeToxaway in North Carolina, for a three-day immersion in environmental science. Fieldwork at Earthshine sometimes means long days, hiking on uphill trails, and studying outside in weather that may not be ideal. Even though students may be cold, wet, soggy, and muddy, they are determined. While they may not be warm and comfortable, students are living their learning experience through fascinating explorations with experienced instructors. Indeed, it is a rare and special journey.

The St. Nicholas Level 7 students make the longest trip. Traveling to restored Williamsburg, Virginia, they are gone for four days and travel more than 600 miles. This experience is exceptionally beneficial for these maturing children. 

The week is filled with colonial dancing, military demonstrations, lantern tours, storytelling, and historical interpretative enactments. Students visit the excavations of the original fort at Jamestown, Monticello in Charlottesville, and the Appomattox Courthouse.

While visiting historic Colonial Williamsburg, St. Nicholas students walk through refurbished, reconstructed, and historically furnished buildings and talk with costumed interpreters telling the stories of the men and women of the 18th-century city. They listen to voices that speak from the perspective of the first Americans who were black, white, Native American, or enslaved. They learn of the challenges these people faced. In this significant place, the future learns from the past.

The overriding and obvious intent of these trips is to provide a substantive educational experience with cultures/environments that cannot be touched without leaving home. However, the effect of these trips is found within the children themselves. It is hard to know whether the greatest effect is one of growth in knowledge and understanding or one of growth in self reliance and confidence. Students always return more confident and secure than they were when they left.

While parents volunteer to help with these trips, it is important to note that parents do not come along. These trips, both EarthShine and Williamsburg, are for students who are on the threshold of graduating into the next phase of their education. These special field study adventures subtly and assuredly let them know – one more time, and one more way- they are ready.


St Nicholas School 7525 Min Tom Drive - Chattanooga, Tennessee 37421
ph: (423).899.1999 - fax: (423).899.0109 -
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