As any homeschooling family knows, much of our children’s learning actually takes place outside of the home. Field trips can be an exciting, if not essential, component of your family’s curriculum. They spark an interest in children of all ages and can be valuable resources to enhance lessons being taught in the home.
Following is a list of ten free or low-cost field trips that can boost learning and in some cases help nourish your child’s soul:
Major Educational Themes: Nutrition, Science
How to Schedule: Start by calling around to your favorite spots, explaining that you and your group would like to request an educational tour. There may be a nominal fee for supplies.
Bonus: Children may be able to make an edible treat to take home.
2. Music Store
Major Educational Theme: Music
How to Schedule: Again, calling a local business to inquire about a tour is the way to go. This tour should be free.
Bonus: This is an opportunity for parents to ask about instrument rentals and lessons offered, if their children are not already studying a musical instrument. Children may be invited to handle and play different instruments, getting a feel for which one(s) they might be interested in.
3. Police Station
Major Educational Themes: Social Studies, Personal/Public Safety, Science (forensics for older children), Problem Solving/Critical Thinking, Public Policy/Law Enforcement
How to Schedule: Research your community’s police station non-emergency phone number. Do not call 911 to schedule a tour. This tour should be free.
Bonus: Police stations often offer parents public safety materials such as child identification kits, which help law enforcement officers safely locate children in the event that they are missing. Some police departments work in cooperation with the area school system and/or children’s hospital to provide public relations programs such as Safety City, a miniature model of a city where elementary-aged children drive mini-cars and learn safety related to bicycles, pedestrians, vehicle traffic, stranger danger, and school buses. Sponsors often offer a take-home workbook curriculum as well.
4. Firehouse/Ambulance Station
Major Educational Themes: Fire Safety, Health (basic first aid), Science
How to Schedule: As with those listed above, be sure to use the non-emergency line when calling about a tour. Since firehouse tours can be popular with public schools, Girl Scout and Boy Scout troops, and other organizations, unless you have a particularly large homeschooling group, be prepared for the possibility of having to share a tour. This tour should be free, but donations may be accepted or expected if your town relies on a volunteer fire department.
Bonus: Children may get the chance to try on a fireman’s suit and/or helmet. Take your camera.
Major Educational Themes: Science, Math & Economics/Industry, Local History
How to Schedule: Look up the phone number of a farm near you, and when you call, ask to speak to the owner or manager. You may have a better chance in the off-season, before harvest, when staff members may be more readily available to give a tour.
Bonus: Many farms will offer free or low-cost samples of their products. Farms that raise seasonal products, such as apples, strawberries, and pumpkins, may allow your children to pick their own produce to take home.
6. Play or Concert
Major Educational Themes: Music/Performing Arts, Literature
How to Schedule: To save money, keep your eye out for performances that are being held at churches, colleges, and toward the end of the traditional school year, at public high schools. If your community has a local theater for the performing arts, you may have the luxuries of more choices and more professional performances. Depending on which venue you opt for, there will be a varying fee.
Bonus: You may get a discount on tickets if you have enough homeschoolers in your group.
7. Hospital/Medical Center
Major Educational Theme: Health, Science
How to Schedule: Call the main phone number of your local hospital(s) and ask to be directed to their public relations or similar department. Tours can vary in nature from an administrator walking your group through the main hallways explaining the mission of the hospital to a nurse educator explaining how germs are spread and offering health tips. This tour should be free, though you may have to pay for parking.
Note: For security reasons, the newborn nursery may be off limits, but be sure to ask! Seeing new life is exciting for children and parents of all ages.
Bonus: Some facilities offer surprisingly peaceful and inspiring chapels or general prayer/worship areas, which offer a nice break from the overall coldness and possible chaos that may be found in a hospital. Children may be given some souvenirs to take home, such as a paper surgical cap. Also, being familiar with the facility may help reduce children’s potential fears should they or a family member ever require hospitalization.
8. Art Studio
Major Educational Themes: Art, Art Appreciation
How to Schedule: Call a nearby studio and ask if they can offer a special tour for your homeschooling group. If not, consider attending an open house, which is usually offered free of charge. The studio may also offer an introductory painting, drawing, or sculpting class to interested students, for a nominal fee.
Bonus: Children will be able not only to see completed works of art, but they also may have the opportunity to watch an artist create a piece. Many artists are more than happy to answer questions about their work, including questions about style, method, and inspiration.
9. Recycling Plant
Major Educational Themes: Environmental Preservation, Science
How to Schedule: Some recycling plants do not offer tours, for safety reasons, so be sure to call and ask before making any plans. This tour should be free.
Bonus: Children may be able to make a small craft out of recycled materials.
10. Soup Kitchen/Food Pantry
Major Educational Themes: Social Responsibility/Charity, Nutrition
How to Schedule: Most soup kitchens and food pantries are desperate for volunteers and are more than happy to teach the community how they operate. There should be no cost for this tour, but donations of food, money, or time would be eagerly accepted.
Bonus: Your children will leave with the satisfaction of knowing that they helped the less fortunate. They will also come home with a renewed sense of appreciation for God’s blessings and Jesus’ message about helping the less fortunate and downtrodden.
Kelly W. Vittoria is a writer, registered nurse, childbirth educator, and former homeschooling mother of one. She lives on Long Island, New York, with her son DeVante and their cat Lisa. She would love to hear from you and can be reached at KellyVittoriaWrites@yahoo.com.
Copyright 2012, used with permission. All rights reserved by author. Originally appeared in the April 2012 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the family education magazine. Read the magazine free at www.TOSMagazine.com or read it on the go and download the free apps at www.TOSApps.com to read the magazine on your mobile devices.
Publication date: September 6, 2013