Guest Speakers & Field Trips
Students often ask us, “How are we supposed to know what we want to be when we grow up, when we don’t even know what is out there?” Good question! Exposing students to a variety of occupations, work environments and positive role models through guest speakers and field trips (or Industry Tours) is a great way to expand their knowledge of career opportunities. In addition, these career exploration experiences are a way of enhancing classroom learning by making real world connections. As guest speakers, professionals offer a presentation about their occupation or career in the classroom, while field trips allow this career information to be shared onsite, at the workplace.
As students hear from guest speakers and see a variety of workplaces through field trips, they start the process of self-assessment. At both a conscious and subconscious level, they start to evaluate what they are seeing, hearing, smelling (and even tasting!) compared to their own interests, values and personality styles. Not only do classroom guest speakers and workplace employer hosts provide valuable insights into the daily world of work, they also provide information about their own career paths, education, along with mistakes and successes. Many career paths have been sparked by an engaging guest speaker or impactful field trip.
At the elementary level, guest speakers should include careers that are more broad, and/or have an intentional connection to the world of children. Learning about the jobs it takes to make ice cream, care for animals, or build a house, plants seeds of interest that can be developed as they age. As students reach higher grades, field trips are more in depth, addressing a larger number of career options within a company, and having career conversations that help students understand the next steps to access them.
Guest Speakers and Why to Host Them
Hosting guest speakers in the classroom (or virtually) is an effective and low-cost career awareness activity. Through a brief presentation (typically 20 - 30 minutes) students learn about the speaker’s career path, occupation, and industry. They are encouraged to ask questions to help determine whether the occupation may be a “good fit” for them. Designed to meet specific learning outcomes, guest speakers not only expand options for students, they can also connect school curriculum to the workplace.
Reasons Why Teachers should host Guest Speakers
- Students have the opportunity to learn directly from an expert
- It supports subjects they may not know a lot about
- Having another person teach a quick section of their class is a nice break for students – and it lends a different perspective
- Creates important community relationships and gives professionals a chance to connect with students
- Provides an opportunity for parents/guardians to contribute to the classroom by sharing their expertise and interests as “career role models”.
- Guest speakers can help reinforce important curriculum lessons
- It is a no-cost way for students to learn about a variety of occupations
The Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce Members list may also be a good place to start when trying to identify guest speakers.
“Going on a field trip to a cultural institution may [be] . . . like looking through a window into a broader world filled with different people and ideas.” - University of Arkansas professor Jay Greene. In the article “The Research Based Case for Field Trips”, Mr. Greene lays out the case of why these experiences make a difference.
The same is true for field trips to hospitals, fire departments, manufacturing companies and banks. Many teachers are including service learning as part of their field trip goals. When students are given the opportunity to leave their school and visit a new place in person, it activates their thinking, and allows them to see new possibilities. Students become inspired. Career development seeds are planted.
Field trips take time, money and chaperone support. But they are worth it. We have included some additional resources to encourage teachers, and parents, to get their students out into workplace settings.
Ideas to Get Started
Conduct a quick survey with parents/guardians to explore what resources they already have available. They can help facilitate a field trip to their place of employment or may have access to a network of people that can help. Many companies have their own goals around student engagement, so be sure to ask your parents/guardians for help.
Field Trip and Enrichment Guide developed by our friends at GRKids. This list contains over 30+ field trip ideas, along with fundraising tips and suggestions for a successful outing. This list is focused on ages 5-13.
Michigan Field Trips with Kids list will get you thinking outside the box
Career Readiness Consultants at the Kent ISD are able to help instructors with leads through brainstorming and networking. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Virtual Field Trip Resources
Modern technology allows you to connect your students to a wide variety of places and people through Virtual Field Trips. Since traditional field trips have been declining recently due to district budget cuts, chaperone challenges, testing priorities and COVID-19, virtual field trips are a welcome addition to any classroom that wants to engage their students in learning. No permission slips needed!
Many amazing organizations have done the hard work of identifying places and people for your Virtual Field Trips. Here are two of our favorites:
Put together by WeAreTeachers.com, this site provides fascinating opportunities to take your students to places around the world. In fact, their recent addition is out of this world! Join the astronauts as they experiment with Slime in Space. Trips to Yellowstone, Ellis Island and Ancient Egypt are just a few of the amazing places you can learn about in the comfort of your classroom.
Want global connections? Skype Education has a comprehensive program developed for educators and parents. Using Skype, interactive connections can be made to role models around the world through Virtual Field Trips and Guest Speaker Sessions. Hundreds of professionals are ready to educate students in West Michigan.
Kent ISD offers weekly Career Chats - 30-minute career conversations via Zoom. These valuable career exploration opportunities cover a variety of career pathways and occupations. Check out the complete list of our virtual “guest speakers”. We encourage students and parents to watch them, but also encourage teachers to incorporate them into the classroom as a piece of their career readiness initiatives.