March 6, 2015

Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites Week 2: Field Trips

I'm thrilled to be linking up with Deedee for round two of this book study!  This week's strategy is all about field trips!  While I know that school budgets severely limit the capability of physically going on field trips, there are definitely ways to make field trips happen.  

I am fortunate enough to work in a district that encourages field trips.  We are allowed around $10 per student, so we like to break it up into two field trips.  Our district kindergarten classes also partner with the Farm Bureau and our local chapter of FFA for a spring field trip to the farm.  

Aside from that, I've used grants (such as Donors Choose) to give my kids the experience of an onsite field trip.  

We also take full advantage of virtual field trips often!

We also love having experts visit our classroom.  This may not be considered a field trip, but 

I think it is extremely important to always make your field trip relevant to learning.  I always try to make sure that the trips align to our science or social studies units to enhance my students' knowledge of the subject.

Our first field trip of the year is always to the pumpkin patch.  We used to go to a pumpkin patch that was much more commercial, but lacked in the educational content presented to students.  This year, we went to our local pumpkin patch, where the farmers were so informative and talked to the kids at a kindergarten level.  They learned the importance of bees, the parts of the pumpkin, and even got to pick their own pumpkins to take back to school for our pumpkin investigations.

This field trip has always been my favorite.  Pumpkins are one of our first BIG units, and there is no better way to make the learning stick than by taking them to the source!

In the spring, we will be traveling to Louisville to the Louisville Slugger Bat Factory and tying that visit into a PBL project.  I took my very first class of kinder kids on a field trip to the bat factory and museum, and then our entire school went on a trip to a Louisville Bats game.  That field trip will go down in history as my FAVORITE field trip ever!  I'm excited to take this group of kiddos back with the intention to tie it into our curriculum.

We also visit a local farm in the spring during our life cycles/farm unit.  The farm is owned by local people, and our high school's FFA run the various stations that the kids visit.  The kids learn about farm safety, go on a hayride, learn about crops, plant their own tomatoes, and get up close and personal with the animals.

Tying field trips into community service is a great way to get your students out and about PLUS teaching them to be go

Around Christmastime, we perform the play, "The Gingerbread Man" by Heidisongs for our family, friends, and classmates.  This year, we took our show on the road and visited a local nursing home to perform our play.  EVERYONE loved it!  

Aside from these field trips, we often get creative in how we can bring experiences to students.  In this chapter, the author references this quote:

Field trips, including those that are virtual, enable teachers to create as many authentic, experiential experiences as possible.  These spatial memories are embedded in the brain and need no rehearsal. (Fogarty, 2001)

We often take advantage of virtual field trips!  If you can't get there, bring them to you!

Last spring, our class created a park for our town.  As our entry event, we "visited" the location of our park.  By "visited," I mean we FaceTimed. :)  

It was a GREAT experience for the kids to see the park location and talk to the individuals involved in the project.

This project ended with our class visiting the park to design the mural and landscaping.  It was a great, meaningful, get your hands dirty type of field trip.

We also utilize FaceTime often during our annual Career Day.  Last year, we even FaceTimed with a Disney Cast Member. #canyousaydreamjob

Another great way to bring this level of engagement to your classroom is by inviting the experts to come to you.  We often have guest speakers who will enhance our units.

We have our local meteorologist comes to teach about cloud types during our weather unit.

We do community helpers week in a big way! 

During this unit, we have firefighters from our local station visit.  They talk fire safety with the kids, and they even bring their big truck that the kids can explore.

We also have our sheriff come to talk about their job in helping the community.

We also have air paramedics come and tell about their job.  It is really cool to have the helicopter land and take off right in front of the kids!  Talk about a grand entrance!

Tate also discusses the importance of simply taking kids out of their environment.  We do this often through various types of "hunts"--nature hunts, shape hunts, letter hunts...  You name it, and we have probably done a hunt for it!

Having iPads has made these so much more meaningful to my students.  The kids travel to our destination with two hands on their device, and take pictures to document their learning.

I think this guy was looking for a bird during our nature hunt!

We went on a little shape hunt through our school.  This sweetie found a triangle on the turkey nose!

Finally, a great way to take your class on a great adventure is to bring it to them!  My favorite example of this is our Polar Express Adventure right before Christmas.  During this unit, we learn all about trains and the classic story by Chris Van Allsburg.  Since we can't actually board the Polar Express and take our students on that grand adventure, my team and I transform our gym into a magical place where the kids will watch the movie, drink hot chocolate, and eat sweet treats, all in their PJs!  We break out our Christmas lights to make it as magical as possible!

My biggest takeaway from this chapter is that field trips (and similar experiences) make the learning so much more meaningful.  I can tell you, from experience, that I remember ever field trip I ever took as a child, but I don't remember one worksheet.  

I feel as if I do a good job incorporating field trips (whether onsite, virtual, or in our own setting) into the norm in our classroom, but I'm going to continue to challenge myself to get creative and use this strategy in my classroom as often as possible.  With technology being what it is in this day and age, the world is literally at our fingertips.

One of my favorite quotes comes from my high school math teacher.  I remember this often as I think of ways to challenge myself:  

"If what you did yesterday still impresses you, then you haven't done diddly squat today!"  

Always, always, ALWAYS challenge yourself.  If you are challenging yourself, then I can almost guarantee that your students will be challenged and, most importantly, engaged.  

Now, go read all the great stuff from other bloggers on Deedee's blog!  Not a blogger?  No problem!  You can easily participate in the conversation by commenting below!


  1. I love inviting experts into the classroom. The kids love guests in the room and another perspective adds so much to any unit taught in the classroom!

  2. Loved this chapter, and while spring weather is knocking on our door here in MN, the kids and I are SO ready to get outside! First graders are so much fun! I use the outside classroom a lot! I do have a question though. I am not the best at incorporating virtual field trips. Does anyone have any starting points? Are there any favorites that you have? Would love some guidance from all of you wonderful people!

  3. I definitely think inviting visitors in the classroom/school can have the same impact as a field trip! I need to tap into the parents in my classroom more and encourage them to come in and share their knowledge to help bring our learning even more to life!

    Crisscross Applesauce in First Grade

  4. Oh my goodness I bet the nursing home LOVED seeing your kids perform "The Gingerbread Man" and what a great experience for your little ones!! Thank you for sharing all of the wonderful things that are happening in your classroom!


  5. Wow! This was a jam-packed post! So many creative ideas!
    Thanks for sharing.
    Curious... do you have special connections when it comes to finding guest speakers? (Do you contact them each year and invite them or do they volunteer to come into any schools that sign up?)

  6. I love how you "young" people use technology so naturally! You inspire me to be a better teacher! Love, love, love the park idea!

  7. Thank you for all of your creative ideas!