By Sharla Fossen of Minnesota Country Girl
I don’t know about you, but my favorite part of homeschooling is our field trips. There are so many fun things to learn and do when you’re taking field trips, and I wanted to share an abundance of ideas to get your creative juices flowing.
Before I get into the different places to visit in your homeschool, I wanted to share with you four different categories of field trips and their benefits.
1 | Virtual Field Trips
If taking a field trip isn’t an option, try your hand at a virtual field trip. You can go to different websites, view their live cams, read about the company/museum/etc, and some of them even have lesson plans & activities.
Check out this list of 250 Virtual Field Trips of places around the world. Or you can listen to this podcast series of Virtual Field Trips! There are apps and podcasts to historical sites, museums, national parks, and so much more.
Here are a few you can try:
- Mount Everest
- Leaning Tower of Pisa
- Zoos around the world
- Mount Rushmore
- The White House
- Buckingham Palace
- The Pyramids
- The Great Wall of China
- Empire State Building
- And so much more!
When you can’t afford or don’t have the time to travel, why not take some virtual trips? You could even create your own virtual field trip unit study.
2 | Field Trips to Everyday Places
I love the fact that I don’t have to school from a book all of the time. Of course, reading and book work is important, but let’s not exclude the best part of homeschooling., which is that you can school anywhere. Here are a few ideas:
Teach your children just from walking around in the grocery store or farmers market:
- Teach reading and letters from boxes of food & shelf labels
- Counting money and budgeting for groceries
- Comparison price/quality shopping, healthy living/nutrition by reading the nutrition facts from foods
- Have the kids bring their recipe to gather the groceries for the meal they’ve chosen
- Are you earning a new language? Have the children read/point out new words on the boxes in the foreign foods sections
The possibilities are endless when it comes to taking field trips to everyday places.
- Music lessons at your local music store
- Print pictures of different instruments and have the kiddos identify which ones they are and in what section they belong (brass, percussion, string, or woodwind)
- Learn about different currencies at a coin shop
- Nature and animal studies at the local pet store
- Navigation | have the kids use maps and tell you the way to get somewhere, calculate distance, time, and gas mileage
- Nature/unit studies at your local park, river, lake or garden
- Nature Journaling
- If you have a microscope, do a study on some plant cells from leaves or grass
- Identify different types of rocks, trees, leaves, and animals
- Learn to use a compass and determine the time by the sun’s location
- Scavenger hunts: Wherever you’re at, there’s always an opportunity for a scavenger hunt. Search for groceries a the grocery store using coupons. Search for pine cones, leaves, pine needles, rocks, animals, and more
3 | Career Exploration Field Trips
This one is one of my favorites on the list. There are so many ways to take a field trip and explore different careers. Check out my article at Minnesota Country Girl on Homeschool High School: Career Exploration Field Trips + Free Field Trip Portfolio Pack for some great ideas for your pre-teen/teenagers to explore different career options.
4 | Special Events and Places
There are so many options for field trips to special events and places. Here are a few (ok, quite a few) of my favorite spots:
I don’t know about you, but I love museums. There’s so much to learn in museums, from science to history and the list goes on.
My ultimate dream field trip is to take a 3-week trip to Washington DC to visit all of the Smithsonian museums. They’re FREE, so I just have to pay for three weeks of food, souvenirs, and a hotel room…that’s not too much to ask, is it?
Here are some great activities for your kiddos while attending a museum:
- Start a notebook and journal about the things they’re learning
- Do a unit study by drawing a picture of their favorite exhibit, write a story about an artifact or influential person, or take pictures for a photography lesson
- If there are science exhibits or kids interactive exhibits, have the kids complete some of the projects and document their findings/experience.
- Also, when planning on going to a museum, check out their website. You will often find lesson plans, unit studies, and activities for teachers and educators on their site.
Let’s face it, one the greatest things about the library is that it’s free. And there’s so much learning potential from visiting the library. Here are some great learning activities on your field trip to the library:
- Look in the history section and search for events that happened on your child’s birthday
- Find a book about a place they want to visit or their favorite animal, then do a unit study. They can write a story about their dream vacation, find some unfamiliar vocabulary words, write a poem, draw or paint a picture for an art project
- Join or start a book club
- Check out a cookbook, choose a recipe, then go to the store and calculate the cost of the dish, and cook the recipe
Zoos, Aquariums & Wildlife Sanctuaries
Next to museums, aquariums are my favorite and zoos are close behind. They’re relaxing for me, and the kids love them. I’ve been to almost ten aquariums across the country, and I cannot get enough of them.
I even had the chance to go to the Vince Schute Wildlife Sanctuary and see the wild bears. I couldn’t believe how many wild bears there were in one place (over 60!).
Also, don’t forget to check out the Association of Zoos & Aquariums website to find local ones near you. Here are some great learning ideas for your field trip to the zoo:
- Sensory play with the exhibits where you get to touch and feel the stingrays, starfishes, other sea creatures, and feed the animals
- You could make a unit study or lapbook on the fish, coral, sharks, habitats and literally anything that has to do with the ocean or on animals all over the world, their habitats, what they eat, and so on…the kids can write about their experience/findings, read the key factors about the animals, draw or paint the animals for an art project
- Make an animal observations notebook where they document the animal they’re watching, what the animal is doing, where the animal lives, what it looks like, and some fun facts about the animal
- They can also fill out their Field Trip Portfolio Pack as well!
Whether it’s art or music in the park, craft lessons, local theater performances, craft fairs, food tasting, kids outing at the park, swimming/dance/art/horseback riding lessons, co-op get-together, renaissance festival (or any festival for that matter), or any other community event, it’s bound to be a great learning time for the kids.
There are a plethora of learning opportunities by attending community events:
- Make lapbooks or unit studies based on the events
- Write stories on their experience or facts about the event, pick vocab words & do a vocab/spelling study
- Take photos for a photography lesson
- Plan and execute a budget for the event
- Make up a scavenger hunt for things to find at the event.
Outdoor Field Trips
If your family is the outdoorsy-type, there are all kinds of learning opportunities at parks, rivers, lakes, waterfalls, nature centers or hikes, farms, arboretums and botanic gardens, greenhouse/nurseries, boat tours, butterfly house, stargazing, state or national park, local u-pick-it berry farms/orchards, and much more. Take advantage of these fun outdoor learning ideas:
- Nature studies
- Unit studies
- Scavenger hunt
- Drawing and painting art projects
- Photography lessons
- Writing workshops
- STEM projects
- Sensory play
- Life skills activities
Another one of my favorite field trips is taking factory tours. There are so many to choose from: Dairy farms, honey bee farms, cereal factories, distilleries, fabric mills, candle manufacturers, snack making factories, boat/auto/airplane manufacturers, clothing or shoe factory, newspaper factory, housing & RV manufacturers, and so much more! Factory Tours USA is an excellent source for finding local factories and manufacturers in your state! Here are some fun learning activities when taking factory tours:
- Unit studies
- Writing lessons
- Take advantage of the hands-on activities throughout the tour
- Also when planning a factory tour, check out their website. Some of them have lesson plans and activities for educators on their site.
Small businesses are a great learning opportunity for your kids with an entrepreneurial spirit. Not to mention it’d be a great idea for career exploration as well. Do your children know what kind of career they would like to have when they grow up? You can read further about career exploration here.
Do your children dream of becoming a business owner? It is an excellent idea for them to discover what it takes to be a business owner and how to get there. Maybe set up an appointment with the owner to ask them questions.
Here are some additional learning opportunities when visiting a small business:
- Kids can learn a new trade. When you visit a local pottery workshop to make and paint a coffee cup for mom, they’re taking an art lesson, learning a new trade, and learning about being a business owner.
- Take that to any small business…ask a local t-shirt or print shop if they’ll give you a lesson on screenprinting
- Find other small businesses in your community and see what you can come up with for a small business field trip
Volunteering is another one of my favorites, but I’ll be honest, it’s something I should spend more time doing. There are opportunities to volunteer at food pantries, homeless shelters, soup kitchens, and animal shelters. You can even go to nursing homes, hospitals, or veteran’s homes and talk to the residents. It gets lonely, and they appreciate being able to visit with someone.
Also, in my surrounding areas, you can deliver groceries to the elderly who are unable to travel to the grocery store. Check out VolunteerMatch.Org to find local places for you and your family to volunteer.
Volunteering can provide a lesson on being grateful. Life can get tough sometimes, and it’s always good to be thankful for something. Every day my son and I write in a gratitude journal five things we’re grateful for and five affirmations. It keeps us grounded, thankful, and pushes us to reach our goals.
Other/Miscellaneous Field Trips
There are so many places a homeschooler can take field trips. Here is a list of more field trip ideas:
Plays & musicals | TV/Newspaper/Radio Stations | Weekend survival trips & camps | Camping trips | Fire department | Police department | Post office | Recycling centers | State capitol or local courthouse | Cave tours | Historical reenactments like the Gettysburg Battlefield | Conservation center | Local historic sites (homes, landmarks, etc) | Small airports | Fish hatcheries | Power plant | Cave tours | Omnimax movies | Train rides | Airshows | Auto shows | Townhall tours | Political Rallies | Job shadowing | Auto racetracks | Sports arenas | Flea markets & antique stores | Book signings | And MORE
There you have it ladies & gents, a huge list of homeschool field trip and virtual field trip ideas with plenty of learning activities to accompany them! Don’t forget to head over to Minnesota Country Girl’s Homeschool High School: Career Exploration Field Trips and sign up to get your FREE Field Trip Portfolio Pack at the bottom of the article in the blue & purple box!
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