Would your child rather read agriculture records or hold a baby seedling in your hands?
Sometimes, the world becomes much more memorable when a student can immerse him or herself into learning–to really jump in with both feet and explore. Even if it is a topic that your student isn’t totally thrilled with, being on site and truly experiencing something in the real world can be very rewarding, helping a child (or teacher) to enjoy the subject more fully than they expected.
A lot of traditional learning is largely visual and partly auditory. Field trips expand on these typical learning styles and add texture, dimension, taste, and other more subtle cues to help make learning memorable. Often a single hands on experience through field trips can make lasting memories and spur future interests.
To love dinosaurs is pretty typical for children, but it becomes absolutely surreal to stand next to a fossilized skeleton of a T-Rex! My youngest son loved that the paving stones at the Fernbank Museum of Natural Sciences in Atlanta had pterodactyl footprints embedded in the stones. On his first visit (about age 7) he didn’t know whether to look up or down. He didn’t want to miss a thing!
My oldest son loves horses and each week when we go to take riding lessons at the Calvin Center in Hampton, Georgia, it is like another field trip to him. He learns something more about his beloved horse friends and their personalities, their health, and riding skills each week. He is considering pursuing an apprenticeship to be a farrier. And all this started as a field trip because he was interested in horses. He would even muck stalls while talking to the horses than read a book any day!
For years, I have taken groups of young adults to the New American Shakespeare Tavern in Atlanta (no booze for teachers or students). Even a movie adaptation of a play is a pale comparison to the complexities of watching a story unfold around you on stage. Occasionally, the kids have even gotten to speak with one of the actors after the show. We have had groups volunteer to hand out playbills and develop a deep and abiding love for theater. Even better, from an adults perspective, they even tried the wonderful British foods that were catered in and lived without pizza, burgers, and fries, if only for a single night.
Not everyone can pursue the trips we were able to make in Georgia, but wonderful opportunities abound in every area! There are fun things happening everywhere if we only open up our eyes to find them.
My friend Alison, is going with friends to a museum where her kids will learn while completing a scavenger hunt she made from information online. Isn’t that a great idea?
Most cities have museums, puppetry theaters, community theaters, ballet, modern dance, various theater groups, murder mystery dinner theater, botanical gardens, petting zoos, military, naval or aircraft displays, historical, religous, and cultural attractions.
Look for National and State Parks, recreation areas, historical locations with tours, pick your own farms, Presidential libraries or birthplaces, places where movies were filmed, places where television or movies are currently being filmed (it’s interesting how these movies and shows are made), firestations, television and radio stations, restaurants (can sometimes tour the kitchen in off hours), and police stations. There is lots to learn in any workplace!
Never overlook an opportunity to volunteer when planning your field trips. Sometimes a lifetime of helping others can be fostered in one outing. Consider food banks, soup kitchens, helping to clean up a neighbor’s yard, rake leaves for someone who is ill, plant flowers, donate items to a shelter, fix meals on a holiday through a local church or other organization. Learning is often getting to know yourself and others.
Younger kids often enjoy very hands on, tactile environments (but gauge your own children, everyone is different) and concrete ideas. Older students begin to look in depth at more abstract concepts. So, a trip that you make with younger kids is often even better when revisited a few years later. For example, there is an Air Force museum a couple of hours away from us. It is a wonderful, free tour with a great picnic grounds and military museum. My husband’s father served in the Air Force, so we do have a family connection that helps the kids be interested in what the Air Force is and what it does. The first time we went, the boys were in awe of the size of the planes and we took pictures of them beside the planes for scale. My oldest was fascinated to feel the treads on a tank. It was an amazing experience for them. A few years later, they were more interested in the museum displays, particularly the ones that told of how prisoners of war were treated on both sides of many different conflicts. This visit brought up some very profound questions from them like, “why do countries go to war,” “how does a war end,” and “is it moral to treat others like these POWs were treated?” The same exact trip, but seen through more mature eyes. Some day, when they take their own children, perhaps it will speak to them from even deeper perspectives.
I have found that for my kids, the learning that happens when they aren’t trying to “learn” something is often what sticks with them the longest! Plus, homeschoolers do need to have some fun now and again!
What is your favorite field trip memory?
To explore other parts of this series on homeschooling, click the following links:
Why Homeschool? Life Long Learners
Till next time,