Energy Field Trip Enrichment Proposal: What's the Point?

Working Group: Greg Baker, Joel Blum, Fred Loxsom, Rob Milne, Dave Mogk, Chris Sinton, Suki Smaglik, Ed Stermer

So you're going on a field trip to an energy facility. What's the point?
Absaloka Coal Mine, Montana Details
What is the value added to the students' learning experience by visiting this facility?How do you justify the time, energy and expense consumed to host this field trip? This outline provides some suggestions about how to design, implement and assess a field learning experience at an energy facility. Unlike a traditional geology field trip, a visit to a working energy facility will present unique opportunities and challenges to engage the students. Activities will be constrained according to the limitations (e.g. safety) of the facility, cooperation and collaboration with facility operators will be essential, and the field trip will not only cover fundamental Science, but also applications to technology, and social and economic considerations. Learn more in the outline below.

Guidelines for Developing Meaning

  • Give background beforehand, what you should look for what you should expect
  • Layout the components, look for those components prepare a documentation scavenger hunt
  • Post assessment/reflection piece
  • Compare it to a second site, have students evaluate/describe the second site, similarities/differences
  • Virtual field trips/prequiz (pre- or post-)
  • Fact checking post-trip evaluation
  • Rule of 3: What you're going to see/experience; see/experience; what did you experience

Learning Goals:

  • Transforming student from passive observer to active participant in a field trip environment.
  • Reinforcing science, technology and societal content.
  • Developing job and research skills.

Pretrip session/jigsaw

  • Teams assigned to either Science/Technology or Context to collect information/research pre-trip to produce summary handout (fact sheet & 1 slide power point summary). Teams 1, 2, 3, 4.
  • Generate unanswered questions (instructor provides additional questions as needed)
  • Pretrip session to review fact sheets
  • Instructor-led pretrip review
  • *Set expectations about potential difficulties with refining info during site visit
  • Release forms/Photo permissions
  • Jigsaw Science and Context groups together. Groups A, B, C, D. (Extension: Present consulting scenario)

Site Visit

Reclaimed coal mine, Absaloka Mine, Montana Details

  • Review unanswered questions to pursue (and review with tour guide priorities prior to arrival)
  • Refine information.
  • Instructor provided questions to be answered.
  • Journal/photo (sketch) documentation of trip
  • Site specific data/documentation: noise, water samples, etc.
  • Sketch two components of the facility
  • Journal response: "Sense of place"
  • Consider data gathering/media techniques: PodCasts, GeoPads, blogs
  • Contingency issues (weather/physical incapacitation), Prepare Plan B's and teachable moments
  • Don't make students look into the sun
  • Site followup (Thank you notes/college item)

Posttrip session/jigsaw

  • Jigsawed groups prepare poster session (extension to permitting debate open to faculty/students)
  • Sketch entire process of energy generation/consumption


  • Fact sheet/Powerpoint slides
  • Poster
  • Individual Journal/"Sense of Place" of Reflection
  • Group contribution evaluation

JigSaw Categories


  • Efficiency
  • Mechanism of energy production/transformation
  • Primary Resource being used
  • Lifetime
  • Geography/Site Location


  • Environmental impact
  • Cost of construction/Operational Cost
  • Regulatory issues (Why are the release forms necessary? Worker risks?)
  • Landscape Impact Social Impacts Economic Impact Corporate Ownerships/Motivations

Site specific vs. Multi-site

  • Multiple site: maintain original science/context groups for pre-site research and maintain jigsaw groups

Oral Presentation Assessment

Provide context for students of either a congressional briefing or permitting meeting:

Four consultant groups hired by:

  • Industry
  • Government
  • Environmental NGO
  • Citizen's group