When I was a student, field trips were these exciting opportunities that got me away from my desk and spitballs. I would pack away a Lunchable (a treat in itself) and be psyched to go to school.
So when I became a teacher, I remembered the power behind those outings and how much I looked forward to them as a kid. But the profession also made me realize that field trips are a lot of work!
Still, when I remember that excited little girl, the effort becomes worth it. Field trips motivate kids to learn. And experiential education has a more long-standing effect than a traditional classroom lecture.
Throughout the years, I’ve learned that field trips don’t have to be elaborate. Many simple outings can get you out of school and still teach a lot.
Here are some out-of-the-box field trip ideas to connect students to real-world learning and teach them lessons they’ll remember.
6 field trips for middle school students
1. The food bank
One of my most memorable, yet unique, field trips was to visit a local food bank that was five minutes down the road with my middle school students.
It was a particularly special event because the kids were already invested in a mission to feed the hungry. We had organized a school-wide penny drive and raised $200 for this local organization. Plus, another teacher and I had integrated the topic into our unit on world hunger.
My students were able to bring all the money (neatly rolled) to the organization in person. They even got a group picture taken in the paper and took pride in giving back to their community. The personal connections ran deep.
While we were there, a volunteer also offered a tour. Students saw the donations and met the volunteers. This trip compelled a few kids to contribute to the food pantry in the future.
The outing didn’t need a ton of planning, and we only had to drive down the road. It also meant a lot to the students and connected them to their community in a genuinely meaningful way.
2. Landfills and recycling plants
As a student, I still remember visiting a local landfill and recycling plant. This was part of a science sustainability unit that has stuck with me after all these years.
We talked about waste and how much humans produce. The owner then led a tour while listing off some stunning statistics — for example, that Americans throw out 1,200 pounds of organic compostable materials every year. Ugh!
He also showed us a section of the landfill with items that looked almost new and had no place in the trash. I learned that mechanics sometimes found pieces for cars there: Information I recalled in the future when I broke the door handle to my beat up Toyota Camry. I saved a ton of money by finding a replacement in the junkyard. Talk about a life lesson learned from a dump!
We also learned about recycling and how reducing and reusing can aid our world. Seeing all the waste and recycling had a big impact on me. The equipment that’s involved and all the energy that went into the process still moves me.
Visiting the recycling plant and landfill was an excellent experience for a kid who had never before thought about the concepts of waste and sustainability.
3. Nature’s Classroom
I may be a tad bit biased with this field trip because I used to work at Nature’s Classroom. But I think this company offers the best outdoor education experience for teachers and students.
It’s a brilliant concept where teachers stay with their students for a week in cabins in the woods. While soaking in Mother Nature, they also learn outdoor skills and academic lessons from experienced Nature’s Classroom teachers.
Kids participate in fire building, putting on skits, weighing food waste, and more hands-on learning experiences. Nature’s Classroom lives up to its name — it’s an educational experience in the woods, and kids get to enjoy the great outdoors in a truly unique way.
I used to teach Poetry in the Woods where kids would write while sitting next to a babbling stream. I’d also do Salamander Gander, an activity that challenges kids to find salamanders and identify them according to an Audubon book.
Of course, I can’t leave out my favorite: Stones and Bones, where the kids would visit a local cemetery to learn history.
Nature’s Classroom has sites all over and is a treasured experience for all involved. Give it a try next time you’re planning a field trip!
4. Unique animal farms
Coming up with a title for this field trip was difficult because I was thinking of two experiences: One at an emu farm and another at an alpaca farm. For the sake of clarity, let’s call these “unique animal farms.”
I took a group of students to the emu farm when I worked at an alternative school. The farmer sold emu eggs and had about 20 of these ostrich-like birds on his property. He showed the kids the eggshells and feathers all while rattling off a ton of different facts. My students were mesmerized!
Capturing the class’s attention was a triumph because some of these kids refused to take part in traditional lessons and had severe emotional disturbances and learning difficulties. But after that trip, they requested to read articles on emus and couldn’t get enough of these freaky Australian birds!
The alpaca farm was another awesome (and free!) field trip. You could feed the alpacas and hang out with them. My students loved watching a woman shear those
This option will depend on what kinds of unique animal farms you have locally. With a little research, you may be surprised by the ones that live nearby.
Many farmers are more than eager to give you a free field trip and will blow your mind with their knowledge.
I knew a Spanish teacher who had the brilliant idea to take her class to a Spanish restaurant every year. In preparation, they’d participate in a unit on ordering food in Spanish and acquaint themselves with the cuisine.
The kids had a blast, and what a brilliant way to integrate foreign language studies with experiential learning! I’m certain those students retained more vocabulary through this hands-on experience than they would have otherwise.
Another successful restaurant field trip that comes to mind was to Epcot Center. We ate at an Italian place, and it complemented my Renaissance unit perfectly. Plus, the kids ate some yummy food that they had never tried before!
Besides dining and taking in the atmosphere, you can request a tour of the kitchen and learn about health inspections and food safety.
Restaurant field trips are fun, educational, and, of course, tasty.
6. Assisted living facilities
I’ve participated in field trips with both public and alternative schools to visit assisted living and nursing homes. These are wonderful places where students can once again give back.
We used to volunteer and sit and talk with seniors. Students played games, made crafts, and completed puzzles. It was just hanging out, but the kids learned a ton.
Our younger students would also hand out holiday crafts and put on special concerts at these homes. The field trips to assisted living facilities were beneficial learning experiences for both the students and the residents.
Venture beyond the box
Hopefully, these creative field trip ideas inspire you to explore some meaningful educational outings. Yes, outings are certainly hard work for schoolteachers, but they’re so worth it! By getting your students out of the classroom, you’ll help shape their future with experiences they simply won’t have while sitting behind a desk.
Above all, field trips allow students to prosper by learning real-world skills that they can connect to everyday life.
And as an adult, those are what we use the most.
Photo credit: ebpilgrim / Pixabay.com