I am so amazed by the sheer talent of these TOS Crew Homeschooling moms! As a whole, they have brought some very interesting and informative information to my blog and I don’t know what I am going to do when I run out of them! Jean brings us some wonderful information on easy and cheap field trips… this is one massive list of ideas worth keeping! ~Kelli
Summer’s a good time to get out and about. The sun is shining (ok, it might be raining, so make plans to go on an indoor field trip), you’re not doing a lot of academic work or perhaps even following the school calendar, meaning you’re on summer break. Now is a good time to explore.
There are so many opportunities! The girls and I got excited just talking about the things we’ve done, and the things we’d like to do. Putting “easy cheap field trips” into an Internet search engine will yield a lot of possibilities to explore. Just to get you started, here are some ideas, not only for the summer but also the school year.
Community Helpers: Younger children, especially, love to visit places that spark their imaginations. (Question and answer heard around our house when our girls were younger: What do you want to be when you grow up? A fireman-helicopter pilot-farmer!) Call your local fire station to ask when you can visit. One of the moms at our homeschool group recommended that all small children get the opportunity to see a firefighter dressed in rescue gear so that in case of a fire, the child won’t hide from this scary looking person. Other community-helper field trips might involve visiting your local police station, a ride-along with someone from the sheriff’s department, a visit to the food bank (collect a bag of canned food from your neighbors and bring it with you), or a tour of the animal shelter.
Museums, re-enactments, and historical interest: Research your area’s history. Get a map that shows “points of interest,” pack a picnic and take a driving tour of historical markers. Find out about re-enactments in your area and make plans to attend one. (Even though we live on the West Coast, there’s an annual Civil War re-enactment in our area in July. It’s fascinating to wander the camps and talk to the soldiers, and to watch the staged battle.)
Call area museums to find out if they have any free days. There are lots of historical sites in our area, one farm that is set up as it was in the 1880s, another that brings back the 1920s, a grist mill restored to its original 1870s state, and more. Some of our local museums are open free to the public once a month, on varying days. Check with your library for more resources. (Friends of ours who live in a neighboring county can get free museum passes at their public library. Sure wish we could!)
Contact your local chamber of commerce to find out more about your area. You might have some interesting museums and collections that you didn’t know about! For example, in our city, there’s a museum dedicated to Elvis, and a hat museum. Try these phrases in a web search engine to get you started: “(your state or community name) museums” or “(your state or community name) historical society”. Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page) has lists of museums for a number of states. Just put your state name and the word “museums” in the Wikipedia search box to find local listings.
Group tours: Some places offer special group rates. Find out what minimum number you need and call friends to put together a group. In this way, we were able to tour the Rembrandt exhibition at our local art museum for a fraction of the usual price.
Library and bookstores: The library can be a wonderful place to go on a rainy day. (In our case, it’s a great place to go on a hot day—our local branch is air-conditioned, unlike our house.) Libraries often have special events. At our library, there are read-aloud days, the read-to-the-dogs event, craft activities, a summer reading program, and more. Bookstores, too, often have special events, whether reading aloud, a book club, or a visit by a children’s author or illustrator.
Parks, wildlife preserves and sanctuaries, botanical gardens: Pack up your field guides, binoculars (or a magnifying glass) and a picnic and take a walk on the wild side. Find a trail and take a nature walk. Go to a park and have a contest to see who can identify the most trees, or bugs, or birds, or…
We’re blessed to have several places in our local area that have been set aside for wildlife. Some have self-guided tours, some have park rangers and regularly scheduled tours, some have nature trails with educational markers.
Our local zoo has one free day a month, on a Tuesday. The zoo has so much to see that we usually have to decide ahead of time just which animals we’re going to visit. Our zoo provides handouts for educators; if your local zoo doesn’t do this, you can make up your own, or find a form on the Internet to fill in, concerning an animal’s scientific name, habitat, diet, habits, and more, with an area for a student’s drawing of the animal. Bring a sheaf of forms and a clipboard for each child, and you have an educational experience as well as fun.
Check out county, state, and national parks in your area. As a matter of fact, the National Park Service designated three free weekends this summer, when you could visit any national park without paying a fee. The next (and last, for the summer) date for free access to national parks is August 15-16.
Businesses: What interests you? How about your children? What kind of work do friends, relatives, and acquaintances do? Contact local businesses and ask for a tour. In this way, we’ve toured a shop that builds and restores stringed instruments, a candy factory, a cheese factory, a large-scale bakery, a factory that produces chips and snacks, a newspaper office, a pet store, a veterinary hospital, a symphony orchestra rehearsal, and more. An online resource that connects educators and local businesses is the Field Trip Factory (http://www.fieldtripfactory.com), but you can also call businesses yourself, or talk to friends to find fascinating field trips.
Community Events: Check with a local radio or television station for their community events calendar. In some communities, you’ll find an event calendar in a local newspaper or family-oriented magazine. In the summer months, you might find free concerts or plays, craft days, festivals, celebrations centered around local crop harvest times (have you ever had garlic ice cream at a garlic festival?) and markets. A farmer’s market makes a fascinating field trip!
You can add spice to your study of geography and cultures by checking out local ethnic festivals. Just a few of the festivals in our area include Scottish, Polish, Chinese, Greek, Swiss, German, Vietnamese, Hispanic, and African American.
Volkssporting: Go for a walk! There are walking clubs all over the world. We were first introduced to Volkssporting in Germany, where you could find walking, biking, and swimming events. You can find year-round walks and special events through the American Volkssport Association (http://www.ava.org/). You don’t have to be a member of a walking club to walk. You can keep track of cumulative distance and even get souvenirs for completing a walk. When you participate in a Volkswalk, you follow a marked trail or map. Some walks are 5 km (3 miles), some are 10 km (6.2 mi) and some are longer. We’ve been on walks through scenic areas, public gardens, historical locations, and festivals (Oktoberfest, a Crab Festival on the coast, a Huckleberry festival in the mountains, and Christmas lights walks, for example).
Virtual Field Trips: Probably the most convenient, least expensive field trip is the virtual field trip, armchair travel that takes you to faraway places at the click of a mouse. You can explore museum collections on the other side of the world! Many museums and historical sites offer online educational programs. Type “virtual field trips” in an Internet search engine and away you’ll go.
With all these opportunities, you could take a field trip every week for a year and only have scratched the surface! Why not get started now?
About Me: I am a homeschool mom of 3 girls, ranging in age from 11 to 24. We’ve been homeschooling 16 years (I can hardly believe it!). Some of the things we enjoy doing include doing handicrafts (knitting, crochet, sewing) and learning to be interpreters at a local historical site, walking, swimming, horseback riding, reading, writing, and making music together. You can find some of my homeschool curriculum reviews at http://eclectichomeschool.org/reviews/reviewer2.asp?reviewer=50 and more on my blog at: http://homesweethomeschool.wordpress.com/ — Stop by and drop me a line!