Yes, you can make summer fun AND educational at the same time!
Education can take on many forms; I’ve been spouting those words for years. We’ve talked about hands-on schooling, dramatizing, incorporating recipes… now, for a fun option and a great way to celebrate the weeks of summer, not to mention the better weather—FIELD TRIPS! Get outside and beat the boredom by learning about your surroundings.
It can be as simple as grabbing a sketchpad and sitting in nature, drawing what you see, to a more complex weekend outing. …or anything in between!
Lots of things are happening locally during the summer months. Most libraries have reading programs going and often have connections to events happening in your area. Be sure to check your newspaper or online sources for events in your area that could make for spontaneous lessons.
Look into historical locations nearby! Every city has something to learn about it, beginning with its first settlers. You can find out more by talking to a town or city historian (check through your library or town hall if you have one) about the first settlers and where a pioneer cemetery might be located.
Many cities have walking tours that take you through the settling of the area as well. You might be surprised to find landmarks and monuments in various places you didn’t even know about! Ask about unique individuals who lived in your area. If there was anyone of historical importance who lived in your town, often their home is made into a museum. The area I grew up in was home to George Eastman, Susan B. Anthony, and at one time Frederick Douglass, as he published his newspaper, “The North Star.”
Look for historic architecture to take in. The Erie Canal runs across upstate New York, with a rich history of its own and tour boats that take you through a lock. We are also in the heart of Iroquois country, and have learned about the culture of the Seneca through the festivals they have shared. Every state has loads of native history within it to learn about!
Perhaps you can take a day trip to locations within your state that are within a couple of hours’ drive. Or wait until the weekend and do it as a family! Several years ago, we took two weekends to travel across parts of New York State. The first weekend we went on a day trip west and visited Niagara Falls and Old Fort Niagara, a fort that was active during the Colonial wars. The following full weekend, we traveled east to our state capitol for a guided visit, and through “leatherstocking country,” pioneer areas of central New York. We stopped for a tour of Fort Stanwix, took an afternoon to dig for “diamonds” at Herkimer Diamond Mines, and explored Howe Caverns. Needless to say, it was a very full weekend! But as you can see, they were all unique stops, unrelated to each other, but reflected the history of our state. If you can’t make a trip of it, look into the local attractions you may have, such as museums, planetariums, botanical gardens, aquariums, or the zoo.
You can find the most interesting places to learn in some of the simplest locations! When we did a study of ancient Greece many years ago, we visited a museum for the art and walked a neighborhood known for the architecture, but the most fun we had was when we visited a little, family-run Greek store. I called ahead to ask permission for our small-group stop. When we got there, Mr. Dimetrius had flags of Greece for the kids and several taste tests of typical Greek foods. He had a map to show us his homeland where he grew up and told us many stories. We ended by shopping his store to gather authentic foods for our Greek Feast! My kids loved it and, although grown, still talk about it.
Don’t be afraid to make phone calls to local businesses that are connected with the topic of your study. For example, while studying horses, we contacted a family that ran a horse-and-buggy service, generally for festivals or for groups in the winter with their sleigh. The family invited us over to meet their Clydesdale horses and gave us a ride through their woods. They surprised us with cookies and cocoa and told stories of their farm and family history. I’ve found that most people love to share about their passion, especially if it’s to educate youngsters!
Collect your memories in a scrapbook with photos and notebooking pages. Here are a variety of “Field Trip Pages” to get you started!
And finally, if you can’t get out but really want to see the sites, the internet is FULL of virtual field trips to take you to locations related to your studies! Studying ancient Egypt? Take a tour of the Pyramid of Giza or the Colosseum for your study of Rome. How about early American history? Colonial Williamsburg has several tours to take on their website! You don’t have to travel half the globe to check out the Great Wall of China! Witness Old Faithful erupt live or choose from the many space science tours NASA has to offer. Virtual tours offer museums, zoos, aquariums, castles, parks, and so much more to visit from the comfort of your own home.
Need some ideas of where to go? We’ve got lots of suggestions for you!
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- Tags: American history, Auditory Learners, Hands-on history, Kinesthetic Learners, Visual Learners