This past week we finished up a study on World War II. Our family has a lot of rich history dating from WWII including my father serving in the Army Air Corps. I grew up with stories from the war and my father had many fond memories of that time. As we were finishing up the chapter and moving through Truman’s and then Eisenhower’s presidencies, I realized it wouldn’t take very long at all to drive to the Eisenhower Museum and tour the memorabilia from the war and Eisenhower’s presidency. What a fun way to drive home what we had just learned!
Now, I want to make mention of something here that I feel very strongly about…
I despise group field trips. I’ve done them, but I don’t like them. Family field trips make so much more sense to me. Mom and Dad alongside the children (without the inevitable distraction of peers) explaining what they are seeing and hearing step by step. I feel the children learn so much more than they ever would in a peer-driven field trip.
But, I digress…
I mentioned the idea of an impromptu field trip to my husband and 2 days later, away we went!
Now, Day Trips are my specialty. I’ll share with you in a later post how I plan for a day trip because with the proper planning (and very little planning, at that), you can enjoy your day and not deal with the stressors that many trips can cause.
Once we got to the museum, we passed a delightful day soaking up the frigid air conditioning and reiterating the lessons we’d been learning during the past few weeks. They heard Eisenhower’s voice, they saw real war artifacts, and they learned about American life during those years. I had read all of this to them, but to actually see it and have someone else say the same things really drove it home. This is the stuff learning is made of!
For Ty and I it was a reminder of how our nation was once a nation of believing leaders. Eisenhower’s words were rarely without mention of the Lord. His Christianity permeated everything he did. One of the plaques on the wall of the museum were the words of Eisenhower’s wife, Mamie…
“One night [many years before], I heard him say, very quietly, ‘God, I’ve done the best that I could today.”
The evening prior to our field trip we met another leader who’s walk with the Lord was something he spoke openly and candidly about. That man was astronaut, Charlie Duke.
He did not shy from speaking about his relationship with Jesus. It was so refreshing to hear a great man speak with humbleness the name of Jesus. Yet another awe-inspiring field trip.
I know for some of you the very words FIELD TRIP evoke terror. It is one more thing you just don’t have time or money for. However, I would encourage you to look for opportunities to drive home what you are learning about in school that are maybe a bit outside-the-box. Field trips can be as simple as driving out to the country to watch a wheat field be harvested, going to a local wildlife refuge, or visiting an art museum. Consider taking in small town museums. They are often full of history for a nominal price (some are even FREE!).
As you teach, THINK. For instance, suppose you are reading about Truman’s whistle-stops on the campaign trail…do your children know what a train stop looks like? I would imagine there is an old depot somewhere near you that you could drive out to totally free of charge. The children might even be able to stand on the platform (with your supervision, of course) and pretend to give a very presidential speech. This simple (and FREE!) field trip will drive home the reality of this historical event like nothing else.
Some “field trips” might even take place in your backyard! When you study frontier life, consider building a campfire in your backyard and then trying to cook something over it. Or when you study astronomy, let the children stay up past their bedtime and star gaze. Or when you do a study on insects, let them go on a bug hunt. These are all variations of the traditional field trip that help to drive home the lesson at hand.
You don’t even have to be overly organized to pull off a great field trip. Just think while you teach, “What could we do that would make this lesson come alive?” If you don’t feel like you are up to anything big, then think local and small. If you feel like tackling something a little larger, then think beyond what is right at your fingertips.
Google specific words from your lesson with the word museum after it and your state name. I imagine you will be very surprised by what you find. For instance, I googled Insect Museum Kansas just now and found THIS! How cool is that?!
Check out small town festivals. You can do a Google search for those as well. I did a search for Frontier Festival and found multiple cities and states to choose from! And with the help of the internet, it is nearly effortless to find field trip ideas in your area.
You might even consider keeping a tab in your Favorites online for Field Trips (or keep a notebook) and bookmark sites by subject. If you keep a notebook, you can make a place for notes once you have taken a particular field trip to remind you of exactly what you saw there for future reference. Many places overlap in their subject content and you could go again with a totally different approach.
I’d love to hear about some of the out-of-the-box field trips you’ve taken with your children! It might serve to get other people’s wheels turning on what they could do to make their school lessons come alive!