Homeschoolers may be surprised to learn that field trips can be effective learning experiences for them as well, whether they are spontaneous or formally planned.
A great deal of learning tends to be book-based or technology-based, even if you include hands-on activities. Making different paper airplane models in order to test their flying capabilities is “hands-on.” A visit to an airshow or a flight on an airplane is “firsthand”. If you are studying volcanoes, making a model is probably safer and more practical (unless you live in Hawaii). However, firsthand experiences are often the ones that become powerful life-long memories, and field trips are an opportunity to make these kinds of memories.
4 Spontaneous Field Trip Ideas
Not all field trips require advance planning. Sometimes you need to take advantage of good weather or step away from a stressful learning situation. This is a good time to head to a local park or other favorite spot. Here are a few spontaneous field trip ideas:
1) Go Hiking
Explore hiking trails together. You can make it a learning experience by taking along an art or nature lesson.
2) Drive Back Roads
Grab your keys, a map, and pick a destination. Have your student practice map skills while on the drive by pointing out specific locations along the way.
3) Go Grocery Shopping
Going shopping? Make it a fieldtrip – practice math skills by learning how to plan and execute a budget.
4) Visit Your Local Library
Libraries aren’t just a place to read, although it is a nice, quiet place for a change of pace to sit down with a good book. Along with an abundance of books and digital resources, libraries also provide a wide range of community events like sign language classes, art activities, STEM clubs, and more.
Perhaps the single most important skill you can encourage on an impromptu field trip is that of firsthand observation. Challenge your children to be on the lookout for something they never noticed before.
In order to keep the unplanned trip enjoyable, you do need to remember a few things before you head out the door. These might include drinks, snacks, appropriate clothing, and sunscreen or bug spray. If you plan to draw or otherwise record what you see, be sure to bring the appropriate materials. Most importantly, do not forget your sense of adventure!
5 Planned Field Trip Ideas
Planned field trips often are intended to enrich a specific topic of study.
1) Local Historial Sites & Museums
These locations are great resources for history-related outings and some factories offer tours that can be informative as well as fun.
2) Learn at a Planetarium
Let your child explore beyond the clouds to learn about space and those who travel to it.
3) Visit a Zoo or Aquarium
Discover the vast life of species on land and/or sea at these locations, and learn your part in preserving the wildlife on our planet. This is a great way to reward children for their hard work. They’ll have so much fun, they won’t realize they’re reviewing the lesson.
4) Give Back at Community Service Centers
Community service allows students to connect with the community around them, and homeschooling gives an added benefit to allow the time to do so. Through the experience, your child will learn not only how to give back, but why it is important that we do.
5) See a Movie or Theater Performance
Now, this idea may seem too good to be true, but you can make this trip a learning opportunity. Have your child read a book or play then go watch it performed. You can compare the two medians after and discuss which you like better.
How to Enhance a Field Trip
There are several ways that you can enhance the educational value of a field trip.
• Before you leave home, discuss the trip and describe what you expect to see.
• If the destination is related to a current topic of study, make sure your children understand the connection. For example, spend some time talking about George Washington and the Continental Army before you visit Valley Forge.
• Find the destination on a map so that your child can see where it is in relation to other known places.
• After the trip, have your children describe what most impressed them, either verbally or in writing.
• Try to find children’s books that relate to something that piqued your child’s interest. For example, look for a book on motorcycles after visiting a factory or a biography of a favorite artist after a visit to a museum.
The goal is to make connections between as many learning activities as possible.
Does Your Family Travel?
Family road trips can also become learning opportunities. Again, take some time to look at a map together and point out the route that you will be taking. The Historical Marker Database website can help you learn more about the towns you visit, as it lists every historical marker in the United States. The site is searchable by category or location, features a “Marker of the Week,” and includes information about apps and other tools for planning field trips. Use this on a road trip to check for historical markers in the communities you visit. You may find the birthplaces of famous people or locations of important battles; if you happen to be in Coffee County, Alabama, you can even find a monument to an insect that influenced the history of the South! Both adults and children will find themselves wanting to learn more about the people and events celebrated by the markers.
Whether your field trip is an unplanned outing or a family trip lasting for several days, it can be enriched by encouraging curiosity, discussion, and connections to what your child already knows. Pick a destination, pack your bags, and begin the adventure!