School field trips are an important component of children’s education because they offer learning in a real-world setting. Unfortunately, many schools are being forced to eliminate field trips due to budget constraints. The good news is there are plenty of educational excursions within walking distance that can be a valuable learning experience for free or little money. With Spring in the air, it’s a good time to get some fresh air, exercise, and edification!
The schoolyard – Gather a group of energetic explorers and investigate the playground, soccer field, local park and beyond. Make it a ‘green’ tour by asking participants to pick up pieces of plastic or other litter. Point out the changing leaves, wildlife, and structural designs of churches and schools. Be sure to greet any neighbors, the postman or construction workers. This can easily be extended into a writing assignment by composing letters to a local government agency or the media asking for cleaner streets, commenting on road construction, damaged sidewalks or buildings in need of repair.
The Fire Department – Firefighters are especially generous with their time and often give tours of their stations. Kids can see where these local heroes eat, sleep, and also inspect the fire trucks. Ask, in advance, if one of the firemen would teach the kids about fire safety tips such as “stop, drop and roll.” Extend the lesson to include designing an emergency exit plan for school and home. Follow up with a fire drill and thank you notes to the firehouse.
The library – There are many ways to take advantage of this invaluable resource. Contact the local librarian who will be happy to schedule a story time activity or give a lecture on the many library services. Conduct your own library scavenger hunt, searching for Newbery or Caldecott award winning books. Ask students to find books of the same genre or to participate in an author study. Consider sending home library card applications before hand so kids without a card can receive one during their visit.
The grocery store – Create healthy eating habits by inspecting a grocery store or local farmer’s market. Make lots and lots of lists. Make a list of healthy choices by scanning the isles for foods on the Food Pyramid. Make a list of ethnic foods. Compare the nutritional components and price range among a variety of brands of similar items. Prepare a family meal and search for best deals. For a real challenge, have a predetermined budget.
A nursing home – Visiting the elderly is an ideal lesson in empathy and real-life history. Once you’ve decided on an assisted living facility, make an appointment with the director to plan a visit and tour the facility ahead of time. Follow up with notes to the residents and encourage ongoing relationships by establishing pen pals.
Record all of these experiences in a field trip log that includes the date of the field trip, place visited, what was accomplished, and what adventure should be next.
These trips are by no means exclusive to the classroom. Parents can easily turn these field trips into family outings, discovering and exploring together.
Happy field trip hunting!
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