After talking so much about planning a successful field trip and how to hunt down great field trip destinations, it might seem a little odd to promote doing field trips on the fly, but sometimes impromptu field trips turn out to be some of the best. These kinds of "teachable moment" field trips can be especially good for young children because so many everyday experiences can be turned into hands-on learning experiences. Here are some ideas for turning the "everyday" or "on the way" opportunities into a field trip.
For young children, many of the daily errands and experiences we adults take for granted are completely new and inspire questions and curiosity. One of the perks of homeschooling is having our kids with us, so they can get those real world experiences with us, but we can still make it a fun learning adventure when we take a little extra time or notice that something is sparking their interest. For instance, you don't need to sign up for the guided tour of the grocery store in order to make it a field trip. Just take some extra time when shopping with with your kids to answer their questions, discuss food labels, look at where the fruits and vegetables in the produce section come from, and encourage kids to talk to the manager of the meat or seafood department if they happen to be around. The same approach can turn a trip to the mall, the landfill, a bakery, I've mentioned our shopping at Wegmans and how every visit through the store is like a field trip. They have a huge cheese department, and just reading the information cards about the different varieties of cheese is educational. They also have a larger than average International Foods aisle, which has provided us with some interesting ideas, including an international soda tasting activity.
Stop by your local farmers market for shopping and field trip combined. Provided you aren't keeping the vendors from tending to other customers, they are usually friendly and willing to answer questions about their products, and you may even find out about other field trip opportunities - maybe the vendor selling local honey would do a tour of the apiary, or the local coffee roaster would allow your group to visit his shop to learn about how coffee is roasted and blended.
Trips to the local park or nature area can usually be done on the spur of the moment, allowing you to do something fun and different when you need a break from routine, but also allowing for an educational experience. When studying ecosystems one year for science, we went into our own backyard to get some ideas of what different ecosystems are like; we stopped by the seashore dunes area on a weekend trip to the beach; and we took a short trip over to the state forest for a walk in the woods. None of these trips required any advance planning, but they provided some fun and some hands-on learning. Really, any time you go for a walk with your kids, it can be a field trip. Look at the plants and animal life you see on the way. It can range from untended wilderness to farmers' crops to neat flowerbeds, and from wild birds to livestock to butterflies. Or take note of the different types of architecture seen in the buildings of a neighborhood, or the types of businesses.
Be open to stops along the way when you are vacationing as well. If you have some extremely Type A personalities in the family, who need a carefully planned schedule and timetable, this may be a huge challenge and you may even decide it's not worth it. Building some downtime into your vacation schedule may solve the problem. And remember that just because you make a side trip to the state park or museum that you see along the way doesn't mean you need to spend all day there. Take advantage of the free places you notice, and then if you can only fit in a short stop, you won't have to feel guilty about "not getting your money's worth". Our family's impromptu field trips while on vacation include the now famous visit to the Zamboni plant, and numerous visits to state and local parks seen along the way. You don't have to turn the side trip or unscheduled stop into a half day of worksheets and classroom though - take some pictures, pick up some brochures if they're available, and just enjoy the experience. Later on, when you're studying ecosystems in science, or the history of the railroad, you will have a great opportunity to remember the time you explored the beach dunes or the city park with the steam locomotive on display.
Erin at For Him and My Family gave some great ideas for field trips for very young students, and many of them involve very little planning. Check out her list of Easy Field Trips for Homeschooling Families of Young Children.
Have you ever had a great, but unplanned field trip? Leave a comment and let me know! Stop by for a cup of coffee and more discussion about field trips during the 5 Days Blog Hop, and be sure to visit the other Schoolhouse Crew members and their 5 Days topics. Just click on the banner below to return to our Blog Hop Home!
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