Field Education


Field Education has been a foundational teaching practice at Capitol Hill Day School since the School was established in 1968. Our Field Education Program is in a category by itself and reinvents the “field trip,” going beyond the traditional look-and-see approach, and engaging students deeply with the places they go and the people they meet there. 

Why Field Education?

  • Field Education offers students authentic experiences that help them to transfer knowledge gained in the classroom to contexts in the larger world. 
  • Research shows that our brains learn through experience. Therefore, when students have rich, complex learning experiences that stimulate their emotions, it helps them move knowledge into long term memory. It makes learning stick!

What does Field Education mean to us?

  • Field Education experiences aren't a break from curriculum—they are an integral part of the curriculum. Each field experience is linked tightly to one or more of a student’s subjects, which makes learning more exciting, more meaningful, and more relevant to children’s lives.
  • Field Education is a tool that is utilized throughout all aspects of our curriculum: academic, social-emotional, and through our social justice work.
  • Field Education allows teachers to engage in and model lifelong learning alongside their students.
Student staging a scene during a photography field trip.

Follow Field Education on Instagram

Keep up with all of our Field Education adventures by following us on Instagram at @explorewithCHDS.

Field Education in Action!

Swipe through the following photos to see a sampling of some of the places we go and the people we meet there. 

Meet our Field Education Coordinator, Liza Esser! As Field Education Coordinator, Liza's job is exactly that—to plan and assist on field trips that tie directly into curriculum and classroom learning.

As part of their exploration of the Chesapeake Bay (a major focus of study in their year-long environmental science program), 7th Graders spent three days at The Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Education Center at Port Isobel to explore the question "What is the story of the Chesapeake Bay?" They dove right in, almost literally, by baiting and setting crab traps, exploring and meeting the people on Tangier Island, mud mucking in the marsh, identifying over 50 specific species of plants and animals, and documenting the unique habitat created by oyster reefs. Once they returned, students worked to create museum exhibits that tell the story of the Chesapeake.

Have you made your shopping run this week? Fourth Grade has! Students perused the aisles of a nearby wholesale warehouse, applying their multiplication skills to a true real-world experience: a trip to Costco.

As part of their study of physics, 8th Grade students visited the Potomac Curling Club to learn not only how to curl, but to learn about the physics used in the sport.

Because Field Education experiences happen often, our youngest learners in Early Childhood spend time each fall familiarizing themselves with the bus procedures and rules so that field trips are always fun and safe! Here they are chatting with Field Education Coordinator Liza and bus drivers Edwing and Hilda before taking their first trip "practice trip" around Capitol Hill.

As part of their study of trees, 4th Graders met with an arborist in Garfield Park.

As part of their study of balance and motion, 1st Graders visited a local ice skating rink!

After a year-long study of the history of immigration to the U.S., 4th Grade took an overnight trip to New York City. Starting with visits to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, the trip then focused on the Lower East Side with visits to The Tenement Museum, The Eldridge Street Synagogue Museum, the African Burial Ground National Monument, and dinner at Lombardi's — the first pizzeria opened in 1905 by Italian immigrants.

Here is EC South on Roosevelt Island.

Early Childhood classes adopt an outdoor space as their nature classroom and visit it throughout the year to notice seasonal changes, have unstructured time, and develop comfort in a natural setting. Here is EC South in their outdoor classroom, Roosevelt Island.

6th Grade Science with Dr. Aruna Natarajan, Director, NIH Pediatric Lung Disease Program

6th Grade Science with Dr. Aruna Natarajan, Director of the NIH Pediatric Lung Disease Program, as part of their study on the respiratory system.

Early Childhood celebrated their first field trip of the year with some play time and community building!

Fifth Grade started their unit on poetry in Humanities class with the question: “How should a community care for its environment?” In addition to studying the environmental justice movement, students also explored how people capture their relationship with the environment in stories, poetry, and song. Students visited the Planet Word Museum where they did a workshop on the sound of poetry and toured the gallery.

EC North students with a bike mechanic at City Bikes, as part of their study of wheels.

EC North students with a bike mechanic at City Bikes, as part of their study of wheels.

In their Civics study, 6th Grade learned about the legislative branch of the federal government. They visited DC Councilmember Charles Allen to learn more about how this branch works at the DC level. He explained what a councilperson does to represent the interests of their ward, the relationship DC has with the federal government, and how his role would change if DC became a state.

Fourth Grade studies Rocks and Minerals at the end of the school year. A favorite trip is to the Rockville Quarry to learn about how rock is mined and then used for a variety of purposes.

7th Grade visits with Colonial Historian Mark Summers at Jamestown as part of their study of American History.

EC South studied birds during the spring. One of their trips was to the Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge to visit a Bird Banding Station. Students learned how and why birds are temporarily caught in special nets for identification, examination, and banding. Afterward, students were given the job of setting the birds free.

Pizza anyone? During the 4th Grade trip to New York City, students had dinner at Lombardi's — the first pizzeria opened in 1905 by Italian immigrants.

Students in our Early Childhood program delved deeper into their study of fungi by meeting with a mycologist who took them on a walk through Scott’s Run Nature Preserve in McLean, VA. Together with the students, he helped them identify and collect many different varieties of wild mushrooms. Later in the week, the same class met with a produce clerk at Whole Foods, who brought out a variety of edible mushrooms sold in the store, including chanterelles that are only sold at Thanksgiving, and which he gifted to the students to take back to school.

1st Grade students visited the Wings of Fancy exhibit to learn about the four-stage life cycle of butterflies, what they eat, and where they live in the world.

The 6th Grade class took to a trip to the outdoor education organization, Calleva. It was special to be able to start the school year by coming together to build community. The trip was in service of our 5/6 Advisory Program, which is focused on building community within the cohort and giving students the chance for both leadership and cross-grade friendships. 

Second Grade engages in an in-depth study of the historic Capitol Hill neighborhood, interviewing experts on Garfield Park and Eastern Market. Brad Pine, a CHDS neighbor and President of Friends of Garfield Park, visited the 2nd Grade classroom to answer the students' questions about the park's history and maintenance. They asked many questions about who originally designed Garfield Park, how it has changed over time, and how Brad personally likes to make use of the space. Second Grade's year-long study of the Capitol Hill neighborhood provides a tangible entryway for students to begin looking beyond themselves and their immediate surroundings of home and school to the larger community.

Eighth Graders took a trip to the National Museum of African American History and Culture to explore an exhibit that highlights the experience of African Americans during World War l.

Seventh Grade French students visited the National Museum of African Art as part of their study of Francophone Africa. They visited an exhibit on heroes, where they learned about famous African artists and historical figures, as well as part of the permanent collection to see examples of art from French-speaking Africa.

Second Graders visited local store Hill's Kitchen to interview business owner and Capitol Hill Day School alum, Leah Daniels, as part of their study of the Capitol Hill neighborhood and how it meets the needs of the community. 

Fifth Grade students have been reading like crazy and will assume the roles of Newbery Award Selection Committee Members. The Newbery Project allows students to evaluate the award-worthiness of potential winners through peer-led book clubs, student-led discussions, and relevant Field Education experiences. John Scott, a Baltimore school librarian, was selected to be on the Newbery Committee in 2015. He visited the 5th Grade classroom to share his amazing experience with the students and give them tips on how to work best in a committee to select their Newbery winner.

As part of the study of water in 3rd Grade, students learn about the Chesapeake Bay Watershed and fresh, salt, and brackish water. At the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC), students seined for fish in a freshwater creek, learned about oysters ​(​the Bay's natural filter​)​, and studied plankton using microscopes.

While studying space, EC North hosted an expert from Mad Science. In the classroom, he explained and had students simulate a lunar eclipse and then launched a rocket outside in front of the School! ​​Students also had a conversation with Astronaut Abigail Harrison from The Mars Generation, a nonprofit that focuses on building a stronger tomorrow by educating youth today about space and the importance of deep space exploration to humankind. Students had a blast making a day of the experience with fun activities and alien attire!

Seventh Grade went to the National Archives where they worked to dissect our founding documents.

EC West with Architect Jeff Hains as part of their study on building design and construction.

In their study of exploration and explorers, 3rd Graders focused on Sir Edmund Hillary. Retired National Geographic Photographer Anne Keiser not only traveled to Nepal to photograph Hillary, but she also became his good friend. Anne visited the 3rd Grade classroom with an amazing narrated slide presentation to introduce the students to Hillary the explorer and mountain climber, as well as Hillary the humanitarian; he used his fame and resources to help the Sherpa people build schools and hospitals. Anne asked 3rd Graders what kinds of people make good explorers, to which they replied: brave, confident risk-takers.

7th Grade visits Alice Ferguson Farm and dissect fish.

Seventh Grade visited Alice Ferguson Farm, where students examined the external and internal anatomy of fish to discover clues to their habitats, feeding patterns, and defense strategies.