After COVID, things are returning to normal in schools across the country. Masks are coming off, classes are meeting in-person, and classes are venturing out on field trips once again! And while field trips are incredible, maybe your budget for field trips, well….isn’t so incredible. Fear not, you can still be a field trip hero in your students’ eyes. Read on for some free field trip ideas.
As educators, we can all agree that books are gold. While our students likely agree, their bodies may not always want to stop wiggling to allow them to fully enjoy a read-aloud. Enter: Story Walks. As free field trips, you can’t really beat them. Story Walks are books that have been divided into pages and laid out along a trail on signs. To read the story, students need to walk along the trail, reading each page as they come across it. Originally created by public librarian Anne Ferguson of Vermont, most Story Walks are set up in local parks or other natural settings. They accomplish two things at once: reading and movement. Both are perfect for students, and the free field trip factor is perfect for an educator’s budget. To locate a Story Walk near you, search for “Story Walk” paired with the name of your town or state, or take a look at this site for more information. Your local library is also a great resource and can point you in the direction of any local Story Walks!
Do you have older students who may have aged out of the picture books offered by local Story Walks? Challenge students to create their own picture books and set up their own Story Walks! Students will have ownership over their writing, and other classes in the district can be invited to join the adventure and embark on their own free field trips.
What better place to show your students the value of supporting local businesses than at a farmers market? Check your local farmers markets listings to find one that takes place during the school day, and prep students for a really memorable experience. Any K-12 class can benefit from this free field trip, and the possibilities for connections to your curriculum are endless.
Tie in math skills by asking students to put together a grocery list while sticking to a budget. For a K-2 class, pair the visit with a lesson about Needs vs. Wants. High school students can write their own recipes, shop for the vegetables at a farmers market, and then create a vlog of the whole process. Any grade level can explore the local produce that grows in their town during that time of the year. Students may be inspired to grow their own food and may get their families excited about shopping at farmers markets.
Senior Citizen Centers
Can a free field trip make a lasting impression on a student? If your field trip is connecting a student with a senior citizen, then absolutely. Reach out to a local senior citizens center to inquire about a year-long collaboration. If they’re excited about it, have each student in your class write a letter to a senior citizen introducing themselves and asking questions. Throughout the year, visit the senior center so that students can meet their elders.
This is a completely free field trip, and the curriculum connections are once again endless. Students can interview their partners about how life was like when they grew up, encouraging research around different time periods in history. ELA lessons can center around writing biographies about their senior friends or sharing a book and then discussing it. Classes can even write and perform skits or plays, exploring music and theater skills. Your students will learn a great deal from their senior citizen buddies, and the joy your students will bring to their seniors will be immeasurable.
Student-Developed Walking Tours
For this free field trip idea, students will choose where you’re headed! Having students create and host their own walking tours is an engaging research project students will want to tackle. Best for middle or high school students, your first step as a teacher is to set your parameters. Would you like your students to research the history of your town? Important Civil Rights events around your city? Or maybe you want them to learn about major cultural institutions right in their own backyard. Once you set a direction for their research, have students write their own walking tours. Each stop should be focused on a different person, place, or thing.
For a learning celebration, have students lead classmates on their walking tours. Again, combining learning and movement will reach different learners and will empower students to take pride in their work. Students can either host in-person for an added benefit of practicing public speaking skills, or your tech-savvy students can record the tour as a podcast. Since these will be walking tours, you’ll likely only need transportation to the starting point of the tours.
As a librarian, this is obviously one of my favorite ideas on this list! Local libraries are incredible, free field trips and public librarians are always looking for ways to connect with schools in their communities. Whether your visit is to sign students up for public library cards, to get students excited about a summer reading program, or to participate in one of the many programs hosted by the library, you can be assured your students will always have a valuable, educational experience. To get started in your planning, reach out to your public librarian and connect with the Children’s or Youth Services librarian. They’ll be able to discuss what they can offer to your class and guide you in planning your field trip to their library. Although it’s a free field trip, you’ll be encouraging students to be life-long readers, the most valuable thing we as teachers can do.
You don’t need a huge budget to plan meaningful, exciting field trips for your students. With these ideas for free field trips, you can stretch your budget and inspire your students to think outside of your classroom walls. Feel free to post below with any other free field trip ideas you have!
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