By Joanna Breault, contributing writer
Finally, spring is here! If your winter was like mine, you’re greeting the warmer weather with something close to child-like giddiness. Instead of fighting spring fever in yourself and your kids, go with it! Get out of the house and do something fun — and, yes, educational. Field trips are a great antidote to the homestretch blahs, and now that the weather is nice, they feel a lot more doable.
Things to keep in mind…
First of all, embrace the truth that field trips are an important part of your kids’ education. You won’t have fun if you’re stressed about the workbooks pages you’re not doing. The hands-on, up close experiences that field trips afford are priceless; they bring book lessons to life and they are the moments your kids will remember. Field trips reinvigorate moms as well as kids — as long as you’re convinced that they are worthwhile and don’t feel like you’re getting away with something.
For younger kids, focus on teaching about the local community. The fire department, a botanical garden, the doughnut shop, the police station — these can all be memorable destinations as long as you have an interesting guide. Call around and find out which sites and businesses do tours for little ones. Many even have hands-on activities they do for younger visitors.
For older kids, connect your trip with your studies. Choose a historical site that corresponds with this year’s era. You can do the same for science — if you’ve studied astronomy, find a nearby observatory; if marine biology, visit an aquarium. If there aren’t good options for curriculum tie-ins nearby, create a simple unit study and then go on a field trip as the payoff. There’s nothing wrong with studying something for a few days and then following up with a trip. Chose an intriguing destination, check out related books and DVDs, pore over websites, absorb all you can, and then — hit the road! It’s amazing how tour guides go out of their way for kids who show interest or understanding.
Here’s something important — think it through. Envision the whole day. Ask yourself what you’ll need to keep any stroller/carrier-bound siblings happy, what kind of snacks or drinks you’ll want, how much cash to have on hand, and how long you should stay (even the most focused kids max out after several hours). There’s nothing worse than being harried (or hungry or late or lost) on a field trip because of a failure to plan.
If you can, have an expert join your crew. If you go with someone who loves the topic or activity, even field trips can be to a commonplace site will be enlivened. Even if you’re going to a destination that has paid tour guides, bringing along a passionate friend who engages children well can make the experience unforgettable.
Finally, reinforce afterwards. Discuss your experiences over the dinner table as a family. Have the kids draw a picture illustrating what they saw, or make a video for their grandparents about the day, or dictate so you can type up their words for a “field trip journal.” Just make sure the debriefing doesn’t feel like a chore.
Now get out there! And if you need out-of-the box ideas, check out 101 Places You Gotta See Before You’re 12!