What is Field-Based Education? And why is it important?

Janet Miron, Gates Rogers Foundation

Field based learning is education that extends the walls of the classroom. Students learn from direct experience. This can be accomplished through experimental learning that involves a direct encounter with what is being studied. South Fork Nature Center’s outdoor classroom environment supplies the stage for “field based learning.” Students are immersed in the natural environment and mentored by docents, many who have career profiles in Conservation, Forestry, Fisheries, Wildlife management, and scientific education such as biology, chemistry, microbiology and botany.

Field based learning is rarely one dimensional, and almost always has a multidisciplinary approach. South Fork Nature Center consistently “crosses the curriculum” by incorporating math, language arts, and creative arts in student experiences. Observation and reflection are hard concepts to master from a text book; they are truly developed by experience. Our trails offer a huge canvas of opportunity for students to immerse themselves completely in nature. Our docents are trained to encourage student observation using all their senses and exercising their critical thinking skills to reflect on predictions and draw conclusions. Students learn firsthand that science is interconnected with all subjects in life. They leave their field based experience at SFNC knowing that science and nature influence their lives daily.

Why is Field-Based Learning important?

Outdoor nature experiences can be very dynamic. In some cases they can be life-changing. Numerous high school students are actively searching for a career direction. Many don’t have family-initiated “environmental” experiences or role models to draw from. Often times students’ classroom experiences are the foundation for their career choices. Hands-on immersion in nature, together with collaboration with docents, is sometimes the pivotal point for young “up-and-coming” environmentalists. Out-of the-classroom educational experiences in the field often increase motivation for continuing education.
Educational Enrichment at South Fork Nature Center

If you have a student interested in an environmental career please visit the following links for more information and career profiles:
Environmental Career: Profiles →
The College Board: Careers in Environment & Science →


Check out Enrichment Program page to start planning your field-based activities!

Field-Based Enrichment Programs →