Field of Science

Field trips versus tours

Some educational tour organization called TPP and wondered if he had ever considered organizing any educational travel for his students.  Since 1996 we've taken a rainforest ecology class to Costa Rica annually.  Who organizes your trip? We do, with the help of the university's travel agent to book flights. How long is your trip? About 2 weeks long. Great! We'd like to see your itinerary and let you compare costs with some tours that we organize. Ah. Well, we don't have an itinerary because we don't take students on tours. We take students on field trips, so we go to a destination and then they study natural history and conduct research until it's time to come back. Would you consider leading one of our tours? OK, you aren't understanding.  TPP is an instructor, a botanist, and he leads field trips; he is not a tour-guide and doesn't lead tours. Tours are educationally superficial; a field trip is an in-depth experience. Well, thank you for your time.
You cannot imagine how many times TPP has had to explain this to deans, provosts, and their administrative minions, and to parents, and even to students so that they don't get the wrong idea either (a few do get the wrong idea). Non-biologists only think in terms of tours because that's what they do mostly. One or two deans ago (they tend to come and go) TPP was invited to bring a student or two over for a luncheon with a new, heavy-duty university trustee, but it was short notice so only one student could be located: Layla. The rest of the luncheon was composed of history and language students all of whom had been on European tours, and when asked about their experience, they all cheerfully chirped about seeing this and seeing that and what a great time they had. And when finally our trustee got to Layla, she replied that she hadn't been on a tour, but on a field trip, and the only place we'd been was a tropical field station in Costa Rica for an intensive study of rainforest natural history and to conduct a field research project. Wow! And without TPP's coaching either. To his credit the trustee wanted to know what she had learned and what she had done for a research project, and her responses were just so darned impressive sounding compared to "tours".  There are times when students just make your day! TPP was so proud. Then the trustee asked TPP about university support and assistance.  There isn't any.  Faculty do it all, and the students pay the costs in total because none of the tuition gets rebated to the department to cover the expenses. Why not asked the trustee?  Good question, sir. Our dean seemed dour.

1 comment:

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