The Insight Labs Interviews Jennifer Farrington

Insight Labs

Check out this awesome interview that The Insight Labs did with Chicago Children’s Museum’s President and CEO, Jennifer Farrington. As part of an ongoing investigation into the emotional lives of children, they talk with Jennifer about the positive effects that changes in environment can have on children.

Excerpt:

Andrew Benedict-Nelson: So what emotions do you think are experienced only in the field trip environment, or at least much more frequently there than in most other places?

Jennifer Farrington: I don’t think there is any one emotion that is exclusive to any one experience. I think we’re constantly dealing with a kind of slide rule of different emotions.

I have worked with kids on fields trips for about a bazillion years, and I think the most compelling thing that you get is shared perspective. When we give children a common experience in which they are all equal, we give them a chance to connect with each other in a different way. When you get on that bus, you are a student anew. You are primarily a part of this group, like “McKinley Elementary, second grade class.” And you’re able to shed your individual identity — you’re not the smartest kid, you’re not the kid who always gets in trouble. It’s sort of like going to summer camp — you get to re-invent yourself a little bit.

So the field trip gives you that sort of opportunity. It’s like two kids have climbed to the top of the ladder together and they can both see the view from up above. They’ve seen together something that nobody else can see. Field trips can build that sense of a new, shared perspective between students.

The other thing that the field trip does is allow the adults and the other children to build an appreciation for something that they haven’t seen in that child yet. For years we did this inventing experience where we gave kids all sorts of materials — things you would consider trash — then ask them to solve a problem with them. When we asked children to talk about what they had learned after the experience, they didn’t say things like, “I learned about ramps” or “I learned about gravity.” They would say things like, “I learned that he” — meaning some kid across the room — “is really good at figuring things out.” The other thing you would see is teachers talking about kids making connections to the literature we used when in the classroom they were non-readers.

So those are a few of the strong elements that occur during a field trip that we need to pay more attention to. We need to let go of some of the desire to have a specific, content-based outcome. Instead, we need to be talking about what it means for these kids to have a shared experience and to operate as part of a pro-social group. What does it mean for them to go someplace new and experience hope and joy as a collective?

For the full article visit The Insight Labs.

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