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Organizing a Worthwhile Field Day

Wednesday, May 28, 2014 -- Scott Sterling

A tradition at many schools in the waning days of the school year is to invite the students outside for a field day. It’s usually described in an educational fashion to make administration happy.

When I was a student, my math teacher organized “Donut Day”. He would fry donuts and “measure the circumferences of various circles”, according to his lesson plan. Tenuous to say the least.

But there are ways to keep up the field day tradition and actually make it a worthwhile educational experience at the same time. All it takes is some planning and teamwork.

It’s all in the lead-up

My math teacher’s reasoning would have been a little more valid if we were actually studying circles leading up to Donut Day, but we weren’t. Don’t make the same mistake. Lead into field day with a unit that can be made more relevant outside.

For example, I would lead into testing season with The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Our field day came after the tests, where the students would research games and foods that were popular in the mid-19th century, and then we would sample those traditions. We were still outside, but Tom Sawyer was made much more relevant.

A cross-curricular opportunity

A field day with one class, or even just one subject area, is pretty sad. Not only that, but administration is far less likely to approve multiple field days; they just don’t want kids out of class for that long. Get your friends together and make it a cross-curricular, one-day event.

With a little creativity, every subject area under the sun can find a reason to go outside. From that point, it just takes some communication in a PLC or faculty meeting to figure out whose goals align and when, then make some curricular adjustments to make sure these units all come at the end of the year. Some advance planning can make everyone happy.

Students need to pull their own weight

Field day shouldn’t be viewed as a gift; it should be a collaborative exercise. This means students need to contribute just as much, if not more, than the teachers. Think about ways they can add to the cause early and often.

Some things an adult just has to do, like solicit donations. But students can come up with the appropriate activities and can even take shifts running those activities or preparing/distributing food. It will be a much more educational experience if the students are able to take ownership in the process.