An occasional field trip is a must-have in any learning environment. For students, it’s a nice break in routine and an adventure that helps them discover new things. For educators, it’s an opportunity to deepen learning with exciting hands-on experiences. And though taking a field trip is not a new concept, it supports a newly trending instructional method called place-based education (PBE).
There are various definitions of PBE. However, The Center for Place-Based Learning and Community Engagement, in partnership with contributors on blogs and social media, defined it as:
“Anytime, anywhere learning that leverages the power of place, and not just the power of technology, to personalize learning.”
Taking field tips is a great way to integrate PBE into your classroom or afterschool program while enabling student agency, boosting access and opportunity and prioritizing deeper learning. To help you make the most of your field trips, we shared some important tips and field trips ideas from Banish Boredom: Activities to Do with Kids That You’ll ACTUALLY Enjoy by Rebecca Green.
Preparing for Field Trips
In order for students to receive the full benefits of the field trip, you must plan ahead. To begin, keep a list of places you’d like to visit. Then check ahead of time for hours of operation, exhibits, rates, discounts, membership opportunities and food options.
Once you’ve picked a place, spend some time talking to your students about the trip. You may want to discuss behavioral expectations, which may change depending on the place. For example, if you are going to an art museum, you may ask them to avoid touching the art, keep their voices low and to walk at all times. In a more interactive setting, you can encourage them to touch and explore and to ask as many questions as they can come up with.
Another option is to give them a task or challenge before the trip. If you’re heading to a museum, for example, you may ask them to discover one fun fact and share it with the class when you return. This will encourage them to explore and ask questions in order to find the most interesting fact.
Finally, plan the trip according to your students’ interests and needs. Younger students may fare better in an interactive space with frequent snack breaks. “Adult” places, like a modern art museum, may be more suitable for your older students.
4 Field Trip Ideas for Students
Whether you live in a bustling city with easy access to interesting places or a small town with few attractions, there are many ways to get students outside to stir up creativity and teach them something new. Below are a few ideas to try and some activities to do when you visit.
1. Art Museum or Gallery
Art museums and galleries are an excellent way to help students gain an appreciation of art while learning there is no right or wrong way to create art. Before the trip, take the time to look online at the museum or gallery, peruse the exhibits and pick out artists that match your students’ interests. Consider visiting modern or more nontraditional art museums for younger students, as they may enjoy seeing art that looks a lot like the art they make.
Also, consider your students’ attention spans when it comes to art. They may only have stamina and focus for 1-2 exhibits. You can plan for a short trip or schedule a snack and/or free play break to help them recharge in between exhibits.
Here are a few activities to do while visiting an art museum or gallery:
- Bring a small sketchbook and drawing tools (ie. colored pencils) and have students sketch in front of artwork. You can ask them to draw what they see or allow them to use their imaginations.
- Build a list of descriptive words to use in discussing art. Encourage students to use them to talk about the works of art. You can start with simple words like happy, fast or bright. Or ask them what they see - you’ll be surprised at what they say!
- Try a game of I Spy. Ask students to look for colors, shapes, techniques or media (such as a collage or sculpture). You can also look for particular subjects that align with your students’ interests like knights in shining armor or certain animals.
2. Green Space
Spending time in green space is a must, and there are many different kinds to explore. A park, arboretum, botanical gardens, nature preserve or simply an open field can all provide a great space for kids.
To plan ahead, review a site map where available and pick out one or two areas you think your students will enjoy most. Many parks and nature preserves have areas designed specifically for kids, such as a children’s garden, so those are great places to start. Some green spaces are open, while others are more confined. In both cases, be sure to plan breaks for snacks, water and free play time.
When spending time in a green space, try these quick activities:
- Bring a book and a towel to sit or lay on to read in the outdoors.
- Try story playing, which challenges students to play out a story. It’s a creative way for them to get exercise and incorporate the natural world into their imaginations.
- Go on a nature scavenger hunt. If you’re visiting in the spring, check out this Spring Nature Scavenger Hunt for Students. In the fall, have students find items such as a brown leaf, pinecone, acorn or three-leaf clover.
- Connect the time spent in green space with other activities students are doing at school. For example, they might collect natural objects (where allowed) for an art project or bring messy science projects outdoors with them.
3. Science Museum
Be sure to add the local science museum to your list of places to visit with students. Most science museums do a great job of setting up exhibits for kids to have fun exploring science in a hands-on, interactive way. You might even see a real scientist working on something!
Similar to visiting other types of museums, it’s helpful to check ahead of time for exhibits that your students might enjoy, particularly if there are any current special exhibits. Many science museums also offer kid-friendly activities throughout the day, which may not be posted ahead of time and may also have a limit on participants. Be sure to check with the front desk when you arrive. Again, consider your students’ interests and attention spans when choosing exhibits.
Incorporate these activities to make the most of your visit:
- Days prior to the trip, have students make a scientific notebook (or use this STEM journal) and write down scientific questions as they come up. You can then explore the museum and try to answer their questions.
- Follow up on scientific principles you learn at the museum by conducting your own experiments. This will help the science lesson stick a little better.
Theatre may not be at the top of your list of field trip ideas, but it can help stimulate imagination, develop listening skills and encourage self-discipline. When picking what type of show to attend, consider your students’ interests and needs. Younger students may enjoy a puppet show, for example. Also, look for a children’s theatre and/or performances that adjust lighting and sound for young audience members.
You may also consider a theatre performance with an interactive component. Some performers may solicit ideas from the audience or even allow kids to come up on stage. In some cases, you may be able to get public access to dress rehearsals, giving students another way to experience theatre behind the scenes.
Attending theatre performances is more about things you can do before and after to get more out of the experience:
- If the performance is based on a book or story, read it first! Students may feel more comfortable if they know what’s going to happen and if they’re familiar with the plot and characters.
- Spend some time learning about theatre concepts - such as set design, costumes and dialogue - before the performance.
- Challenge students to translate the story they saw into their own play. It can be a simple puppet show or a more elaborate performance, but students will love reenacting scenes from theatre performances they’ve attended.
Field trips are an important part of learning, as they help to promote exploration and deepen learning through engaging, hands-on experiences. For more field trip ideas and fun activities, check out Banish Boredom: Activities to Do with Kids That You’ll ACTUALLY Enjoy.