Action Research 9
Research by Lehrer and Schauble (1999) found that, “Fifth graders have been performing like twelfth graders on math and science tests after learning through a new, hands-on technique…” (p.7). One teacher involved in this study observed that students seemed to learn more quickly by getting into the field and getting their hands dirty.
When conducting research for a chapter on the ultimate classroom high school classroom, Gurian (2001) found that it may not be a classroom at all. He looked at surveys from the Mead Education Summit. That conference involved hundreds of high school students and indicated that students want more of what the brain wants for good learning; more field trips, especially for science learning (p.282).
Another reason that fieldwork may increase student achievement is that students observe the real world where the sciences are not artificially divided. Students learn at a young age that there are different sciences. This organizational structure provides students with a conceptual structure for learning and organizing information. However, it inherently creates the disadvantage of a false separation of scientific disciplines that do not match up with the way the world actually works. In nature, physics overlaps with chemistry, geology, and astronomy, while chemistry overlies biology and psychology (Ahlgren & Rutherford, 1990). Field labs can help students gain a deeper understanding for this nature of science.
Most science classrooms do include a laboratory component. As required by the A-G requirements in California, 20 percent of class time must be spent in the lab investigating concepts. The Investigation and Experimentation Framework section of the Science Framework for California Public Schools (2004), authored by the California Department of Education,