Exploration and discovery can be the motivation and encouragement children need to try new experiences, which is why field trips are valuable portals to broaden our children’s education and thinking. If you’re a homeschool parent looking for homeschool field-trips or a school teacher looking for field trip ideas, allow me to share thoughts for budget-friendly excursions that I’ve used over the years.
Do all field trips have to entail a complicated scavenger hunt (although these are fun), a complex itinerary or a costly fee?
You’d be surprised just how many fascinating and educational activities are free (or of minimum cost) although it does take some time to find these educational gold-minds, they’re worth it when they benefit your child and his/her experiences. Most of the homeschool field trips listed below are multi-grade/multi-age and of little or no cost.
1. Nature Walk
Subject: Science, nature, even Bible (the study of Creation)
Educational Ideas: Equip children with a Nature Journal and have them document discoveries, questions, or comments about the walk to discuss later. Encourage kids to sketch their observations along the way freely. We’ve used nature journals for years, in fact, I’ve been known to maintain one as well.
Here is a list of botanical gardens and arboretums in the United States. Most arboretums offer guided walks, lectures, demonstrations, children’s programs, plant sales, art exhibitions, workshops, and seasonal community events for a nominal fee. Your local arboretum probably offers public gardens that focus on plants native to your region. A nature walk provides kids with the opportunity to observe native species in their natural setting.
“nature journaling is your path into the exploration of the natural world around you, and into your personal connection with it.”
∼Claire Walker Leslie, author, artist, and nature journalist
2. Visit a Local Library
Cost: Generally, free
Subject: Literature, Grammar
Educational Ideas: Have children prepare three questions to ask a librarian during the tour and research a little beforehand about the Dewey Decimal System. Have students practice searching for a book and finding it; this is a skill they will thank you for later!
Before your adventure to the library, read the spellbinding and hilarious children’s book by Suzanne Williams and Steven Kellogg Library Lil.
3. Tour the Bank
Educational Ideas: Beforehand research a little history of banks, leading banks and bankers, the creation of our currency, why currency is essential, etc. This is also a wonderful transition into counting coins and dollars for younger students.
After the field trip, with your upper elementary kids, reinforce banking concepts with role play by using real-life money management skills with Learning Resources Pretend Play Checkbook with Calculator and Checks.
4. Visit a Greenhouse or a Farm
Subject: Science/Botany/Agriculture/Business Education
I can’t say enough about the value of visiting a greenhouse/farm. As a farmer, I have conversations with people who have no idea how food is grown. Visiting a farm connects kids with some of the same foods they see in the supermarket. Many farmers encourage on-site visits and share the complexities involved in operating a farm.
Farmer, author, and environmentalist, Joel Salatin suggests that “children laboring in gardens is both attitudinally and physically positive. Weeding the beans and picking cucumbers should be seen as a part of a healthy child development program.”
The farm-to-table movement has piqued consumer interest in the farming industry. Also, as the locavore movement increases, people want to venture to farms to observe the growing and harvesting practices 0n local farms. After touring a farm, treat your family to a restaurant that features a farm-to-table menu.
Educational Ideas: Find a local greenhouse or plant nursery and schedule a tour, or just visit the greenhouse for fun! Check a book out from the library with plant names and create a scavenger hunt to find specific plants, have students sketch a favorite plant in a nature journal, and talk to the owner of the greenhouse about the science behind a greenhouse and how plants grow.
Have older students specify what kind of farming takes place: organic, conventional, animal species, plants/crops, record the stages of growth for a specific crop or plant, and note the farm equipment needed to plant, maintain, and harvest the crop.
5. Visit a Museum
Grade: Multi-Grade (depending on museum this might be more appropriate for older students)
Cost: free although they can cost
Educational Ideas: Discover what kind of museums are around you and make a day of it, pack a lunch, and spend the day exploring a piece of culture. Quite often, local museums adjust presentations and activities to suit the age/grade level of the students so be sure to call in advance.
6. Tour a Workplace
Cost: Generally, free
Educational Ideas: Live next to a construction site, a law office, a processing plant or any other place of work? These locations are great for students to experience and discover real-life skills and gain an appreciation for the many jobs people work.
7. Tour a Courthouse
Grade: 6 +
Subject: History, Social Studies, Political Science
Educational Ideas: This will take a little prior planning. Discuss the different types of law, the process of becoming a judge, a lawyer, and observe a trial. Discuss the Supreme Court and how it impacts our laws.
8. Aquarium or Zoo
Search groupon.com for digital coupons toward membership or a one-time visit to an aquarium or zoo.
Subject: Science, Bible
Educational Ideas: Have children document their trip in a journal or take pictures of their favorite exhibits to discuss later. Before or after the tour, consider the different types of creatures God created and how each one is special.
9. Visit a Recycling Center
Cost: Generally, free
Educational Ideas: What better way to teach our children/students the importance of recycling and environmental awareness than visit a recycling center? Talk about why we need to recycle, what products we recycle, and even collect recyclables to take with you to the center.
Environmental stewardship educates students on various ways to care for our planet.
10. Visit a Restaurant, Supermarket or Chef
Cost: free or nominal fee
Subject: Nutrition, Finance/budgeting, Kitchen chemistry
Educational Ideas: If your family is anything like most Americans, your family eats out once a week. Why not expose your kids to the behind the scenes of a restaurant? During off-peak hours, many local restaurants are open to the idea of a tour of their facility.
Our area is home to a local culinary school which invites school groups in for demonstrations and workshops. Not too far from our house, a local chef provides cooking and table setting classes. There is a nominal fee attached to these experiences.
Believe it or not, several restaurant chains/supermarkets offer field trip opportunities:
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