I used to love taking field trips when I taught elementary school. Yes, getting the whole class loaded and unloaded on a subway or bus is an exercise in logistical patience and planning. Going to the museum, park, historical center, etc can be nerve-wrackingly wonderful – vital to extending what is learned in the classroom.
I continued the field trip excursions when I was a child care provider. Very young children can benefit from planned excursions, if the proper planning is done and care is taken to ensure everyone’s safety and enjoyment. A break in the routine, a chance to have a new experience up close with something they are interested in is really a plus for any early childhood program.
The apple sauce we made tasted much better because we had gone to the farm to pick the apples! Pretending to be monkeys is a lot more fun after you have gone to the zoo and seen the real monkeys. Make Way for Ducklings, a favorite story, made so much more sense when we went to the local pond and saw duck families and nests (and they chased us for bread crumbs). Although we had a lot of children’s books, we visited the library weekly to get more! Even preschoolers can learn that the library is a great resource for finding out more when you are interested in a subject.
A field trip has to have a purpose – extending an activity, enjoying recreation, introducing a new experience. Home schoolers have the advantage of flexibility to build field trips into their curriculum as they go – without being limited by an overall school schedule. I think the most extreme field trip I know of was taken by one home schooling family – they went of the country! One of the parents worked for the airlines, and they had free travel as a benefit – so they extended their study of Central American frogs by flying to Central America! Hmmm… what have you done with those flyer miles lately, home schooling families?
You don’t have to go to far away and exotic places to extend the activity. I used to take my child care group (toddlers through 5) to ethnic markets and vegetable stands. This was how we would prepare for cooking, nutrition, or multi cultural activities. There are also ties to math and reasoning with this kind of shopping with young children.
Some of the more memorable trips we took were based on personal experiences and the children’s family life. Once, during the festival of Sukkoth, we drove over to the house of one of the children so that he could host a snack for us in the family Sukkah (a temporary booth for a harvest festival during the Jewish holidays in fall). We even went to the supermarket and the pet store – not to do routine errands, but as part of the projects we were doing. And then we came home and wrote thank you letters, or drew pictures to show our appreciation!
Some considerations when transporting other people’s children for child care providers and home schoolers – make certain that your auto insurance covers the trip, and that you have written permission from any parent for transporting their child if they are not going too. Keep a file of health forms/insurance info on each child for emergencies.