Source: Indys Child Parenting Magazine

Fantastic Field Trips
Educational Adventures that Bring on the Fun!

by Nikki Keever

September 01, 2010

What are your favorite memories as a child? Do some of them include family vacations, school field trips, summer camp and special events at the theatre, museum or national park? As our lives fill with routine tasks, professional trips and a few weeks for family vacation, families depend on the creativity of schools and caretakers to ensure children get the same experiences we had.

Field trips in the formative years are one of the most important activities teachers can provide for their students. As we all know, children learn by doing. They remember what they have personally experienced. Field trips are a type of experiential learning that gets children away from the traditional classroom setting and into a new style of learning. They can be as simple as taking a class of children out on the school grounds for a lesson in observation or as detailed as an out-of-state visit to a particular field site.

Little known museums

Columbus, Indiana is home to the Kidscommons Children’s Museum. Here, children from infant through fourteen years old spend time in the Childhood Garden, enjoy the state-of-the-art computer lab in the Power Outlet, scamper up the 17-foot-tall climbing wall, or hang out in the bubble room. Museum favorites include the ExploraHouse, home of the world famous giant toilet, and Kids on the Move, a healthy lifestyles exhibit.

“We have experienced success with school parent groups funding field trips to Kidscommons Children’s Museum. Several have used our programs as a reward for school fundraisers rather than giving kids a pizza party. We continually work with underwriting for transportation and have partnered with Bartholomew County Solid Waste Management District to offer free programs at an outdoor wetlands lab,” said Diane Robbins, director of education, proving that educational destinations are trying to make field trips affordable and attainable.

Evansville Museum of Art and Science is located on the Ohio River, another historic destination full of history. The museum offers classes and hands-on exhibits taught by local artists and museum staff where children get their creative juices flowing.

While you’re in southern Indiana, visit the Wesselman Nature Society and learn to make your backyard attract wildlife, if that’s what you wish. Canoe lessons and daylong canoe trips are available or earn your Boy and Girls Scout badges at the Wesselman Nature Society.

What do computers, dinosaurs and astronauts have in common? They can all be found and experienced at the Imagination Station by ASSET in Lafayette. Visit every Saturday and explore a variety of interesting subjects from all corners of the science field. At Imagination Station, they believe hands-on learning is the most effective way for a child to retain information. In that effort, classes involve experiments and child participation so that your child can be immersed in the scientific experience. Classes are designed for children six and older and require a five dollar admission fee to help pay for the materials.

The Indiana Historical Society and Eiteljorg Museum-American Art, National Art Museum of Sport take some preparation to make them fulfilling learning experiences. With larger groups, leaders have to do their homework to emphasize teaching points and ensure students are tracking and learn something they didn’t know before the day started.

Rural life & history

At Piney Acres Farm, students can mine for gems. “Folks purchase mining rough, sand with real gems in the bag, and place the sand in a mining pan and then place rough and pan into the sluice to wash out the sand and what is left are the gems,” said Rex Zenor, “We are new to offering tours or field trips, but are flexible enough to let parents or teachers come and use the farm to teach about agriculture and history. Most of our tours are in the fall with our pumpkin patch and corn maze then more visit when our Christmas tree farm is open.”

Tuttle Orchards offers Preschool Farm tours for ages up to five, Pumpkin Biology Tour and Apples: Then and Now Tour both for kindergarten through second grade and The Economics of Apples Tour for second through fifth grades. Tours begin September 15, 2010 and are generally a half hour.

Kelsay Farms isn’t new to the field trip scene, they’ve been giving school tours for over 30 years in the spring, summer and fall. The best time to visit Kelsay Farms is in October. “We offer many attractions for children including farm tours, baby calves, corn maze, hayrides, Moo Choo rides, Bale Mountain and a huge straw bale play area,” said Amy Kelsay, education director. “We are adding the Baby Barnyard and Rope Maze this year while featuring live music, face painting, kids’ games and crafts on our Dairy Days Festival weekend October 15 through 17. Our group tours include a guide farm tour which includes a brief lesson on dairy foods and a dairy snack. These tours are based on Indiana academic standards and are hands-on. Children will see a modern milking parlor, over 500 cows and baby calves. They will also learn the importance of getting 3 servings a day of dairy and that milk leads to strong bones and healthy teeth. All students receive a goodie bag, cheese snack and a Kelsay Farms coloring book.”

Crown Hill Cemetery provides educator handbooks, tree maps and cemetery maps. Some famous people laid to rest at Crown Hill include Benjamin Harrison, John Dillinger, Catharine Merrill and James Whitcomb Riley.

See big cats, tigers, panthers and more at the Black Pine Animal Park in Albion, Indiana just north of Fort Wayne operated by Professional Animal Retirement Center, Inc., a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. This is a permanent refuge for exotic animals in need, including retired performing animals and former pets. Over 85 in all, guests can see 14 big cats, bears, primates, birds, reptiles and more. Children of all ages will be in awe of the creatures normally found across the Atlantic living here in Indiana.

The Indiana State Museum is home to thousands of items ranging from prehistoric fossils to current popular culture items and everything in between with new exhibits opening regularly. Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition opens September 25 – January 16, 2011. This exhibit takes you on a journey back in time to experience the legend of Titanic like never before. The galleries in this fascinating Exhibition feature over 240 real artifacts recovered from the ocean floor along with room re-creations and personal stories; each highlighting a different chapter in the compelling story of Titanic’s maiden voyage.


Get out while you can!

Walking tours downtown are the perfect way to welcome a cool fall season and teach middle school and high school students about Indiana history starting with the Indiana War Memorial. Students will learn what role Hoosiers have played in fighting and defending our freedom. Historic downtown Indianapolis walking tour blends discussions of architecture and history in an ideal guided tour for fourth and fifth grade students. Visit www.historiclandmarks.org for more tours and group tour information

Field trips are first to go

Field trips not only expand children’s learning and experiences by providing them with hands-on experiences, they also increase children's knowledge and understanding of the world in which they live.

The recent fuel crisis and educational cutbacks have forced most school districts to reevaluate the instructional importance of field trips. Mobile field trips have increased in popularity as these concerns often force educators to think outside the box to meet the experiential needs of students.

Nikki Keever is a freelance writer living in Noblesville, Indiana with her husband and three children.