Shigematsu Garden in fall

The 15-Minute Field Trip – Shigematsu Garden

by Meg Elias

When I started teaching at Lansing Community College, I inherited a class with a lab component that allowed students to experience several off-campus field trips. I have come to appreciate how much learning comes from being out in the world; from seeing turkeys in the wild, to getting your boots wet, to just being in motion. Not every class has the luxury of a 3-hour block of time and a bus ride, but there are many resources on campus that can get students out of the classroom and on a “15-Minute Field Trip.”

One place on campus that presents a great opportunity for learning is the Shigematsu Garden, located between Dart Auditorium and the Hermann House. As a break from in-class work, give each student a card with a problem, writing prompt, or task to complete, and walk over to the garden as a group.  Here are some sample assignments for different content areas:

Example 1: Estimation Skills

LCC Physical Plant needs to treat the fish in the pond with an antibiotic.  The dose depends on the volume of water being treated. Thinking of the size of a two liter bottle, estimate the number of liters of water in the pond.

Example 2: Dilemma Discussion

Data scientists at LCC have determined that fewer than 1000 students use the garden each year.  LCC is considering incorporating classrooms and a computer lab in Dart Auditorium by tearing up the garden  and extending Dart Auditorium. classrooms and a computer lab. Discuss with your partner, the pros and cons of this change.

Example 3: Verbal Skills

With your partner, take turns describing three things you see in the garden in your native language. Then describe them again in your second language.  Work with your partner to select and perfect one description to share with the larger group.

Example 4: Creative Writing

Write for five minutes using one of these three writing prompts:

  • Did you hear that?
  • Weeds have no place in a garden.
  • How exactly, did I end up here?

There is no doubt that developing even a short field trip takes time and effort.  You could TELL them the information in five  minutes. Why take fifteen minutes out of class time to walk around campus?   Because active learning and field experiences add a dimension that is not attainable while sitting at a desk, and even adult learners need a change of scenery sometimes.  Along with your students, take a moment to process, connect, and breathe!

Learn more about Shigematsu Garden

If you have suggestions for blog posts or if you would like to share an idea for a 15-Minute Field Trip, email Meg Elias (, or stop by the Center for Teaching Excellence, TLC 324.

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