Let’s take a trip

University field trips are a positive learning experience for many students


Submitted Photo

Story by Jake Steen, Staff Writer

In the case of many college students, leaving campus during class typically involves playing hookey.  And going on a field trip was something reserved for elementary school.

Corey Sturm, a UW-Eau Claire sophomore information systems major said he can’t remember if he even went on a field trip in high school, let alone in college.

“I didn’t even know field trips existed in college,” Sturm said.

Select programs at Eau Claire are making a habit of taking students out of the classroom to bring them into a new learning environment.

Paul Kaldjian, associate professor of geography, is just one of the many professors who consistently takes students on field trips. He said doing so is an integral part of the Geography program here at Eau Claire.  

“Almost all of our classes get some form of field trip experience,” Kaldjian said. “Getting students out using field equipment and learning hands-on early helps students have a better understanding of concepts for when they get to advanced courses.”

Kaldjian said many of these trips bring the geography program to destinations across the country all semester.  

Students have taken escapades to places like the Twin Cities, New York City, Louisiana, Oregon, the desert southwest, northwoods Wisconsin and even out of the country.

“We’ve even taken students to France to inspect Battlefields from the Vietnam war,” Kaldjian said. “One class takes a trip to the local butcher every semester where students watch an animal get slaughtered to see where their hamburger begins.”

Brief field trips to areas around Eau Claire are more common examples of student field trips.  Kaldjian said getting students out of the classroom and into the field is an important learning tool.

“For geography 188, cultural landscapes, we can’t talk about landscapes nearly as effective as we can just go outside and look at them,” Kaldjian said. “And for geography 350 (soils) we can take local trips to simply observe the natural and physical environment as well as the human environment.”

Joe Poulin, a senior information systems major, went on a field trip to the Walmart Distribution Center.

Poulin went to the center, in Menomonie, for his Marketing 330 class this fall. However, he didn’t see the same benefit of the activity.

“It was 9 a.m. and I had to miss one of my other classes,” Poulin said. “I don’t think anyone even understood what we were supposed to be learning about.”

But Poulin said he understands his field trip experience probably wasn’t as typical.

“I’m sure field trips could be very useful in a different context,” Poulin said. “But definitely not this one.”

Sam Johnson, a sophomore who has yet to declare his major, took a trip to Big Falls for his geology 110 class to study the topography of the landscape.

“It was just like normal class, except we were outside,” Johnson said. “It was perfect because we got back to campus when were usually done with class.”

Whether it’s an elementary school trip to the local farm or a 300 level geography course trip to test the pH level of a local farm’s soils, field trips can be positive experiences, and Kaldjian said he can’t stress the importance enough.

“For many students, the experience of a field trip is the highlight of that course,” Kaldjian said. “It might even be the highlight of their college career.”