Saturday, September 24, 2011

Planning Field Trips

Whenever you think about planning field trips, you should first consider what you're studying or are about to study. Better yet, consider what your child/student is interested in. Let's use our upcoming field trip as an example: The Fairchild Botanical Gardens. We are studying plants in science (which I call affectionally Natural Science), using Singapore MPH 3/4: Diversity textbook as a spine. From there we have already started extending our lessons with the activity, the homework, and the higher order thinking skills books. I have the teacher's manual, which I use to broaden the learning experience. The lesson plans are very well done. We have several books about plants at home, which we use for reading and making the concepts stick.

After you have determined what it is you want to study, decide where you want to go to amplify the learning. In my case, it was a no-brainer, as the Singapore Science TM suggests visiting the Singapore Botanical Gardens. Where does my area have a Botanical Garden? The closest Botanical Garden is in Miami, the Fairchild Botanical Gardens. A quick look on the site tells me it's a beautiful place to visit. 

Next up, try to find if the location you're contemplating has free admission days. That way you can secure a date that advantageous for the family. In our case, the drive up there already costs gas. We are about an hour and a half away from Miami. This doesn't count gas. Then you have food, drinks, and a possible souvenir to pay for. If you can save on admission, why not?  

After you have secured a suitable date, you can go ahead and click on the Education department of the site. Virtually all parks, zoos, and museums have a section where teachers can go and either get information on visiting with their students, or actually get free resources. Do they have guides? Will you need one? Will it cost more? In our case, there are free activities and lesson plans for elementary students from K-5! The zoo has a similar section. You can print these out according to your student's level, and voila! You're good to go. Wait, not yet.

First you have to actually prepare your student for him to get the most out of your trip. For her to have an amazing experience, the pre-trip lesson plans (if they have any) are a great way to get your student excited and thinking about the theme. If there are no lesson plans on your location, you can determine which areas you are going to concentrate on (in our case the rainforest, tropical plants), and get books, free resources online, and plan away. Once you have it, go over it with your student, get him engaged and ready to learn. During the visit there are activities the students can do, which will keep them enthusiastic.

The last step before you leave would be to print out a map of the place, and have your student locate the areas which you have studied, and which are about to be visited. He can also locate restrooms, concession stands, and other such points of interest. Why not stop for ice cream afterwards? It goes without saying that as a the parent teacher, you know exactly where to go and where to park. You don't want to get lost and miss precious time.In addition, how much money you are willing and able to allocate for this trip.

If you have done your homework so to speak, by this time your student will be excited to go. Once there, she will see it as a familiar place, and be ready to interact with the exhibits and know what to do.

Lastly, there are sometimes post-visit lesson plans already drawn for you, or you can set up a field trip sheet where your student can report her experience and what she has learned in the process.

Have fun! Field trips should be educational and fun. If it's only educational, the learning won't stick. If it's only fun, there won't be much to write about.

To review, these are the following you would need to do to plan a successful field trip:

  • Determine what you're studying or what your child is interested in
  • Actually study and read the material before your field trip
  • Decide what place would be the best to expand the learning
  • Visit the website of the location you have chosen, and research free admission
  • Based on your findings, set a date
  • Dig for free resources (check Education or Community key words)
  • Print out any resources and use
  • Familiarize your child with the particular area within the location you're focusing on
  • Plan directions, meals, and the budget
  • Print out a map of the place, and have students lead the way (age appropriate)
  • During the visit, revisit the concepts, have students do activities/sheets, take pictures, narrate in a recorder, and/or sketch in a sketchbook
  • After your visit, review and document the learning- have students write a report, essay, create a scrapbook or online photo journal. Older students can write an entry on your blog.
  • Have FUN!   

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