Be Child Care Aware: Field Trips Help Children Learn Through Experiences

Cheri M. Gioe, Riche', Cassandra, Martin, Lauren, Merrill, Thomas A.  |  4/19/2005 10:28:37 PM

News You Can Use For September 2004

Young children learn from their experiences. They use their senses to gather information about the world around them.

That’s why field trips play an important role in the curriculum for young children involved in day care or school, according to LSU AgCenter associate Cheri Gioe.

"It is important for caregivers to use field trips as a vehicle for sensory experiences such as smelling the air or listening to the sounds of the traffic," Gioe says, adding, "It’s also important for caregivers to point out details and help children talk about things they have seen before.

"Field trips also are an excellent way to foster higher level thinking by having children focus on how and why things happen."

The LSU AgCenter associate advises that field trips for young children do not have to be elaborate or expensive to be effective.

"There are many places that welcome children and are free to visitors," she says. "There are also many places that can be reached by walking."

Of course, Gioe points out that child-care providers and teachers should get permission from parents before leaving the child-care center or school on any adventure. "Have parents sign a permission form, send reminders home and post signs about the field trip," she said.

She also stresses that preparing for field trips ahead of time will prevent possible problems during the field trip. A few things to consider are: Will there be a lot of traffic? Will the children be tired or hungry? Do you need to bring a snack or water? Is there a bathroom where you are going? Do your children need a shorter field trip?

Another tip from the expert is that children should wear nametags and should be encouraged to wear a specified color.

"Prior to leaving for a trip, the route and mode of transportation should be planned," Gioe advises. "And it goes without saying that arrangements should also be made to ensure enough supervision."

The LSU AgCenter associate says you can enlist parents as chaperones to help with supervision. "Just be sure all participating adults know the routes and rules ahead of time."

She also says to bring a cellular phone and a first-aid kit even on walks.

In addition to explaining the rules and route to adults, Gioe says it may be necessary to explain where you are going, what you will see and why you think the field trip is educational.

"This is easily done by visiting the site beforehand and talking with the people you will be seeing," she advises.

If there are specific rules to follow in the place you visit, be sure the children and chaperones understand them before going on a field trip, according to the expert.

"Rules and reasons should be stated positively so the children will understand them," Gioe says. "For example, if you are visiting a workplace, you should explain that people will be working and that they may need quiet to do their jobs."

After the field trip, be sure to allow plenty of time to discuss what the children saw and heard, Gioe advises.

"Create activities that will allow them to build on what they experienced," she explains. "Children may want to sketch animals they encountered or create the store or post office they visited in their dramatic play center. You can also sing made-up songs about the field trip."

While field trips generally imply going someplace, Gioe points out, however, that doesn’t have to be the case.

"Walking trips can be very meaningful for children, because such little trips involve things that are close and meaningful to them," Gioe says, explaining, "Take walks around your home or school during different seasons to have children discover the differences in summer, in winter, on a windy day or after a rain.

"Ask them about how the air feels and smells, how the grass and trees look and feel, and what animals they see. Have a treasure hunt and find items that can be used in the classroom such as leaves, sticks, acorns or flowers. Then the children can make sculptures, collages or paintings with these items."

Other walks that can be fun are shadow walks on sunny days, a walk to the park or pond, or a walk to find different shapes, Gioe says.

Neighborhood walks also are good field trips, according to Gioe, who says you can take a walk to your local grocery store, post office, hair salon, car dealership, library, construction site, museum, a different school, bank, fire station, police station or hospital.

"Before you leave on a walk, ask the children to predict what things and people they will see there or what they might hear," Gioe says. "Also, have the children think of questions they want to ask the workers, and, of course, remind them of all the safety rules they need to know. Then, after the field trip, have the children help you turn their dramatic play area into the place they visited by remembering what they saw and experienced."

But Gioe says you don’t actually have to leave your school or child-care center to create the learning experiences of a field trip.

"If you are not able to visit a certain place, you can also plan ‘reverse field trips’ for your children by inviting someone like a barber, police officer, fire fighter, nurse or doctor to come to your classroom," the LSU AgCenter expert explains. "Ask them to wear their uniforms and to bring items they use on their jobs."

Gioe says you also could employ similar tactics by inviting parents, friends and families of your children to show talents and hobbies or bring pets to share.

"As with any new experience, some children may have anxiety about the field trip," Gioe cautions. "Do not force a child to go closer to something or to try something he or she is afraid to do. Accept the child’s feelings where they are."

You can overcome such obstacles by assigning an adult to stay with such a child outside of the building or at a comfortable distance from what is happening. In addition, let that child know it is o.k. to move closer when he or she is ready, Gioe says.

"If a child expresses anxiety before going on the field trip, explain exactly what will happen and what to expect," Gioe says. "If the child is still reluctant, allow the child to stay back with an assigned adult."

In those cases, you may want to take pictures or videotape the experience, so the fearful child can watch what happened in a safe setting, and other children can tell him or her about the field trip. This also will help to relieve anxiety for future field trips, Gioe says.

For information on more field trips for young children, Gioe suggests looking in "Open the Door Let’s Explore More!" by Rhoda Redleaf.

The LSU AgCenter’s "Be Child Care Aware!" educational program is designed to educate parents and child-care providers about quality child care. It is funded, in part, through a contract with the Louisiana Department of Social Services’ Office of Family Support.

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Contacts: Cheri Gioe, Leah R. Martin or Casie M. Riche’ at (225) 578-6701 or cgioe@agcenter.lsu.edu
Editor: Tom Merrill at (225) 578-2263 or tmerrill@agcenter.lsu.edu

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