Take the Classroom on the Road with Field Trips
Field trips are fun! You get to put down the books and pencils and drive to a new location with interesting things to see and experience. And more than likely there will be a restaurant meal in the schedule.
But of course, field trips still provide learning opportunities as kids engage with historic sites or works of art in person. Even the most vivid living book can be supplemented by a real life experience. The things your children have only read about come alive as they are seen, heard, or even felt during a field trip.
To get the biggest educational bang out of your field trip, there are some things to do before, during and after the experience.
Caveat -- you may want to merely experience a concert, museum, or national park without analyzing it in these ways. If so, that's fine. But if you want to take the field trip to a deeper level of learning and create a field trip report, continue reading my hints.
Learning On Site During a Field Trip
The Perfect Field Trip Clipboard
While You Are On the Field Trip
To write an excellent field trip report, there are things you should do during the trip itself. If you neglect to do these things, writing your report will be more difficult. Prepare to do these things on your trip:
Clipboards are perfect for taking notes while on foot. I encourage my daughter to jot down interesting facts, sketch things she sees, or even write questions that she wants to answer through further research.
Once at a quiet dinosaur museum, she spent several minutes sketching plesiosaur fossil. That sketch later became part of the field trip report in her science notebook.
It's too easy to forget fascinating statistics, years that events occurred, and names of animals. Don't rely on your memory. Write it down.
Connect to Previous Learning
You don't want to be constantly referring to school lessons during a field trip, but encourage your children to find connections between what you've already studied and what they are seeing in person. Hopefully this will happen naturally.
I was thrilled when my daughter identified the artists of some of the paintings we saw at New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art. Other times, she did not recognize the art, and I would prompt her to look closely and make a guess.
In the Ancient Greece section, my daughter spent time explaining some of the artifacts to her dad who was a bit rusty on his ancient history. She had just studied that time of history, and was eager to teach him what she knew. Teaching is learning twice!
Sometimes a field trip opportunity arises that deals with a topic you've not yet studied. That's perfectly okay! Go ahead and enjoy. When you do get to that subject of study in your academics, your child will have a frame of reference for the new material.
Giving your child a camera is a great way to get him involved in the field trip and slow him down a bit if he has a tendency to speed through an exhibit. My daughter used her iPod at the Metropolitan Museum of Art to take photos of her favorite pieces and at Independence National Park to take photos of the places that most impressed her. Each time she looks at the images, she is reviewing what she saw on our field trip.
The photos serve as a great reminder of the details of your field trip once you are home and writing a field trip report.
TIP: Photograph the informational signs & historical markers you see in lieu of taking notes. If your photo is crisp enough, you will have the information saved on your camera.
Stuff your pockets and tote bag with all the free maps, brochures, pamphlets, and flyers that you can find. The facts listed on those promotional materials are perfect for fleshing out a field trip report. Moreover, the full color images can be cut out and used to embellish a report or a notebooking page.
Be sure to look at the information desk and ask for good materials. Sometimes the best brochures are behind the desk. All it takes to get them is to show your interest. At our trip to Independence National Park, we were talking about the Junior Ranger Program with a park ranger. At the close of our talk, he reached under the counter and gave all three of us free Junior Park Ranger badges! If we had not been in conversation with this man, we would have never gotten the badge. So it pays to engage the docents and other employees working at your field trip locale.
TIP: If a brochure is especially nice, get two. You can use the front of one and the back of another. Or you can keep one and cut up the other for its images.
A Clipboard Perfect for Field Trips
Graphic Organizers for Field Trip Reports
A great graphic organizer to use for field trip reports is the KWL form, pictured to the right and available at The Notebooking Fairy. With this three columned layout, you write what you
- K know about the topic already
- W want to know during the field trip
- L learned during the field trip
Of course, the first two columns you fill out before the trip and the last is reserved for during or after the field trip.
What About You?
What to Include in a Field Trip Report
Now that the trip is over, gather all your notes, photographs and realia together to plan your field trip report. For young children, a simple worksheet format is enough (see the free printables linked above). Or you may want to create some notebooking pages to document all you learned and collected. Middle school and high school students can develop the field trip report into a complete essay.
Here are the parts of a written field trip report:
In your introduction, state the basics: where, when, who, how, and what. Be sure to use the full name of the location of your field trip and include the city and state. Give some background on the site, being sure to share what is the significance of your field trip destination. Is it a historical site? If so, for what event or time period? If it is science related, share what field of science is the focus.
The Heart of the Trip
The bulk of your field trip report should share what you learned while you were there. (Things which you already knew before going on the trip but that you observed should also be discussed.)
What did you learn, observe, or experience about history, science, or the arts as a result of this field trip? Talk about those concrete facts.
Arrange your information in a logical order. Consider using these options:
- physical layout of the field trip locale
- chronological order of the events that were re-enacted
- least favorite to most favorite experiences
This is where you can get personal. Share your own reactions to what you saw, heard, and experienced. You can critique parts of the field trip, raise questions, or draw conclusions. At the very least, share what most impressed you, either for good or for bad.
- a map showing your route to the field trip
- a map of the location
- photos, brochures, and pamphlets
- sketches drawn on site
Thanks for Your Comments
Marie Alana from Ohio on February 05, 2013:
This is a fantastic idea. It seems like your daughter really got into the field trip. I hope you keep the report, years later she may still remember this trip. My child goes to school and I collect a good amount of papers. Then, I put it into a special book.
Leah Lefler from Western New York on January 31, 2013:
This is great - I don't homeschool, but I do a similar system over our vacations and summers. My boys are 5 and 7, and we collect maps and brochures from the places we visit. Each location gets a page or two, and we bind them together at the end of the summer. This past year we went to a fossil dig site, on several hikes (we took rubbings of the leaves we found), and on a trip to Washington, D.C. The kids love remembering the fun places we visited, and also remember the trip more because we made a book about it. The trip journals are also fantastic (and cheap) souvenirs!
RTalloni on January 31, 2013:
Congrats on your Hub of the Day award for this top-notch guide to teaching a child to write a homeschool field trip report! Pinning to my home education/school board.
Stephanie Bradberry from New Jersey on January 31, 2013:
I am a big proponent of homeschooling. I find that the learning environment and rigor are great for most of the families and kids that chose or choose this option. Like anything, it is not for everyone, but I have had the pleasure of meeting nothing but excellent home schooled students.
kingkos on January 31, 2013:
Miss the old days, Miss my field trip with my classmate and my teacher before. Nice information in your hub
Educateurself on January 31, 2013:
For me this is the best article because i am writing addict.
thebookmom from Nebraska on October 11, 2011:
What a great and useful hub. I love the idea of a field trip clipboard to keep stuff in. We usually do collect a lot of info while on site! I like the idea of sketches and photos to use in the report later on. Great, specific ideas and tons of good resources. Voted up!
Deadsearose on April 29, 2011:
Nice hub! I don't homeschool But I still try to find opportunities to teach my six eager learners outside of school and this seems like something they would really enjoy doing.
kirsteno on April 28, 2011:
Thanks for the hub! I'm a homeschooler, and my little guy is just getting big enough for some of the more meaty field trips. I appreciate the information.