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Where Are We Going?
Most students look forward to field trips. But, even those students who regard them as a "day off" will be surprised at the knowledge gained while having fun. The goal of these ten day trip suggestions is to provide the students with something that they can take away from the experience to talk about in class, write in their journal, and/or tell their friends and relatives.
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Plan, Plan and Plan Again
Successful field trips require careful planning ahead of time. Determine the goal of the field trip. Is it to supplement the ongoing lesson or introduce something new? Whichever is the case, it is a good idea to:
- review the activities provided in the trip brochure
- include your students in the planning
- use a KWL Chart
- prepare a list of questions pertinent to your students' needs
If the class has a regular newsletter, make plans to take notes and pictures for the next publication, or if your class does not have a newsletter, this would be a good project to start. Encourage help from your chaperones (parents).
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Art institutes can serve as an extension activity to many of your core subjects. For example, if your class is studying about the Middle Ages and its contributions to the modern world, art institutes can answer many of your students' questions. Paintings from the Byzantine and Renaissance periods, replicas of the knights' fighting gear, and farm tools used during the feudalism period can bring to life what may have been too abstract for some students to understand. Many of the exhibits include interactive learning experiences which puts the student right in the heart of a historical period.
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In addition to the traditional dinosaur exhibits, science museums now cover a multitude of subjects. While specialty museums are always best, museums that combine a variety of areas avoid the necessity of visiting several locations and it's easier on the pocketbook. Also, in recent years, lifelike human anatomy exhibits have found their way into science museums. These exhibits are interactive which is an added plus.
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Historical sites are a must if your class is studying American history. These sites offer full scale replicas of villages, including the houses where influential people lived, shops, churches and schools. Often, outside the courthouse, there is a pillory, (device for punishing law breakers). Many of these sites, reminiscent of colonial towns, are built around a large grassy area (village green) where parades and concerts are held. Also, military reenactments, such as the American Revolutionary War or Civil War, provide a great educational experience as well as an opportunity to help students understand how war phrases such as "the rules of engagement", have changed since George Washington's time.
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Serpentariums are reptile zoos which specialize in snakes, but they may also include alligators and turtles. Under the guidance of a herpetologist even the most squeamish kid will have fun. While most zoos have a reptile house, visiting a serpentarium is better. Here, one can get up, close and personal with a variety of reptiles. Other than the big snakes, such as the boa constrictor, which are kept in glass cages, many snakes are allowed to roam freely in open air enclosures. Many students will probably wonder how this is possible and why the snakes can't get out.
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A visit to an auomobile plant puts a new face on how transportaion has evolved over the years. Automobile plants can provide information on the design, the prototype, the finished product, and the testing requirements. To read about the evolution of transportation and the key automotive innovators, such as Nicolas Joseph Cugnot, Ransome Eli Olds, or Henry Ford, in the classroom is great, but to actually see how a car is built is an experience that is worthwhile.
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The newspaper has been the primary media for getting information on current events and goods and services to consumers since the eighteenth century. To compare and contrast the method that Benjamin Franklin used versus the method used today can be very enlightening for kids. A comprehensive tour would include following a written piece from the reporter's desk to the consumer. Also, with the advent of technology, many newspapers have cut back on home delivery and now offer the news via the Internet. Understanding this latest innovation can be very convenient. Now, teachers have a choice as to whether they want to continue to have the newspaper delivered to their classes for current event activities or just send their students to the media center with assignments.
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Students will find that "Old McDonald's" farm has become more sophisticated. Today, Mr. McDonald might be a college graduate, computer literate, and depend on technology to milk his cows, shear his sheep, and monitor his chickens. Also, he might have the latest farm tools which makes it easier to plant and harvest his crops. If your school is planning a garden and has not had the luxury of a county extension agent or university consultant to guide you, this trip is a good deal. Questions about appropriate crops to plant, appropriate tools to use, and crop rotation are a few of the questions that can be addressed.
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With increasing emphasis on eating healthier foods, farmers' markets have become quite popular. The array of fruits and vegetables displayed at these sites, many of which you won't find in your local supermarket, can almost be overwhelming. In addition, some of these markets display various meats, breads and flowers. Those classroom lessons on consumer economics can take on a new meaning. A comparison between a farmers' market and a grocery store puts concepts, such as retail, wholesale and middleman, into proper perspective and less abstract.
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County fairs are more than rides, games and food. They represent an important American tradition. In addition to showcasing new farm products and machinery, it is also a place where young and old can showcase their hobbies and crafts. This excursion is particularly exciting if your students have something to exhibit. Because of the different learning centers and numerous other things to see and do, priorities should be set to keep things running smoothly.
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A visit to a historical home is most useful when you want to zero in on a particular figure in history. All of those questions that might not be addressed in a book can usually be answered at these sites. Unlike a historical museum, the tour guides at these sites have been trained in-depth on the subject. All of those questions and comments, such as, "Is it true that . . ."? or "I read that . . ." are welcome. Their job is to clarify any confusion or concerns. In all probability, because they are experienced, they have anticipated your question and will answer questions before they are asked.
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There are countless field trip ideas and this article only scratches the surface. While the focus of these trips is educational, some can just be for fun. However, children are like sponges and it is highly unlikely they will walk away without learning anything, even from "purely fun" excursions. I have found that all children bring something to the educational table. In order for everyone to enjoy themselves, it's important to tap into this knowledge during the planning stage.
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All of the ideas introduced are products of the author's personal and professional experience.