This week, students in the Academy of Aerospace and Engineering went on a field trip to the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. We started our tour of the museum by seeing the planetarium show, Dark Universe, narrated by Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson. This was a 4D show that gave an outstanding explanation of the origin of our universe, explaining the Big Bang theory and the role of dark matter and dark energy in making up the universe. After the show, the students went in six crews, or groups, and went through a cycle of six stations in the museum that Ms. Garavel and I had planned out. The stations were parts of the museum where the exhibits related to the middle school science curriculum. At each station, the students had 30 minutes to look at the exhibits, then answer an open ended question assigned to each grade level. The day after the trip, we went over their answers and discussed the trip. Students varied in what their favorite part of the museum was, but the planetarium show was a clear favorite.
Field trips provide an extension of what we learn in the classroom, and they especially help extend STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) lessons. While we can show videos and discuss topics such as the Big Bang or evolution in science class, only at a museum like this can students see a world-class show that explains the Big Bang theory or an extensive fossil collection that explains evolution.
We have three more field trips planned this school year, and all of them will provide extensions of our STEM lessons. In November, we will tour the UCONN campus with the Engineering Ambassadors, undergraduate engineering students who volunteer to show middle and high school students what engineering is all about. In December we will tour the New England Air Museum and Pratt&Whitney’s Customer Training Center, and at both locations we will see aircraft and engines that students have studied in the classroom. In April, we will attend a planetarium show and get a campus tour at Central Connecticut State University, learning about astronomy and learning about our closest four-year college. All of these field trips will extend student learning in STEM.
Here are some photos from the field trip to the American Museum of Natural History: