Last autumn, our science co-op spent an afternoon visiting a local museum. For a few months we had studied coral reefs and ocean life. A scheduled tour called Underwater Appetites, designed to teach oceanic food webs, was an ideal field trip to conclude our unit.
While it was not our family's first group field trip, it was the first multi-family field trip I had planned and organized.
During that same month, our family visited an aquarium on a family vacation. Knowing the younger children had extensively studied underwater life, it was another great field trip for them, and the older children benefited from the learning experience as well.
Planning and having a successful field trip for a group or for your individual family can be easy. There are a few ways to get the most out of your field trip that I have learned over the years.
Getting the most out of field trips...
- Build interest and excitement - If you've been there before talk about the past trips. Show pictures, your own or online pictures, and read books to build a background knowledge. Down load online information, maps, and pictures to familiarize yourself and your children about the place you will visit.
- Plan the specific date and time - Whether you go on a weekend as a family, with fellow homeschoolers during the week, or by yourselves, plan the day, and select a rain date, if needed as well. If possible, plan specific times that suit your family's schedule best. If you are going to be gone over a meal time, decide if you will pack or buy a meal while on the trip.
- Plan not to see everything - Most likely you won't be able to do or see everything. The majority of places we have visited have had incredible amounts of exhibits, special talks, and scheduled activities. Generally, there are too many options to do it all. Instead, we decide ahead of time what exhibits and events we definitely want to participate in or observe. Then, we choose what items would be nice to see, but are not a 'must.' We plan our day and movement through the museum or place accordingly. Having a map of the place and a schedule of that days scheduled events ahead of time are extremely helpful.
- Remember who the field trip is for: the children - Though there are some places I thoroughly enjoy visiting, they may not be as interesting or all I hoped they would be. The same is true of our children. During these times, we can try to generate interest by finding items according to our children's likes or dislikes. Or, if this fails, we simply move onto the next exhibit or event.
- Engage the tour guides - When visitors ask questions and show interest in particular things, tour guides generally extrapolate on these topics. Encourage your children to ask questions and speak with the guides. At an industrial museum, my children asked all sorts of questions of life during the 1800's. Later, the guide added an few rooms to the tour, because she thought the children would like to see them. These rooms weren't part of the regular tour. She only added them into the tour because of our children's interest. We have also acquired extra written information (for free) to take home from other places, because of the questions we've asked.