20 Homeschool Field Trip Ideas to Keep Students (and Their Teachers) Engaged
One of the benefits of homeschooling is the flexibility it provides: While rigid textbook-based learning too often feels like a chore for young, energetic students, a homeschool curriculum can be designed to provide maximum education without the snooze-fest. That said, learning at home can also start to feel like torture if both student and teacher are getting cabin fever. In this case, we suggest you arrange for a change of scenery stat and take your lesson plan on the road. Here are 20 homeschool field trip ideas to keep your kid (and their teacher) engaged.
Editor’s note: Remember to follow local and state Covid-19 guidelines and to check with attractions before visiting in order to ensure that they are following social distancing safety measures.
1. Visit a state park
State parks are a childhood education goldmine for many reasons—these protected swaths of land offer beautiful landscapes, recreational possibilities and often include historical sites to boot. Homeschool students will benefit not only from the fresh air, but also from learning about why the land was designated as a state park in the first place and the valuable labor that goes into maintaining it as such.
2. Take a nature hike
If you don’t have a state park within a reasonable distance, any other natural setting will do the trick. A simple nature hike is ripe with educational potential and well worth the effort: Explore a local trail and you’ll discover plenty of opportunities to teach your homeschooled pupil about plants and wildlife.
3. Check out a local aquarium
The cool-toned tranquility of an aquarium has the capacity to instantly calm even the most restless kid—and calm is at the core of learning, right? The aquarium is an incredible resource that will introduce your child to the science of underwater ecosystems and all the animals that thrive in them. In other words, your biology lesson just got some extra sea cred (sorry). And don’t worry—you can explore many of these magical tanks virtually too.
4. Visit a zoo or wild animal park
Zoo trips are an instant hit with kids of all ages, because the novelty of seeing wild animals up close is hard to beat, but some say the real value of a zoo visit is exposure: Children who might otherwise find the concept of an endangered species too abstract, could leave the zoo with a closer sense of connection to the animals and a better understanding of the sustainability measures required to protect them. Bottom line: There’s definitely learning potential here, but it’s worth noting that the educational value of zoos is hotly contested in some circles, so you might want to do a little research on the matter before planning your trip. (Psst: you can explore many of the country’s biggest zoos virtually too.)
5. Learn about astronomy at a planetarium
Much like an aquarium, the planetarium is a super relaxing place to be, which should come as no surprise since it’s an indoor, simulated star-gazing experience. Of course if you live in a rural part of the country you can always just opt for the real outdoor deal—but planetariums are enriching even if you have a clear view of the night sky in your hometown since these visits include expert instruction to help your child build her mental map of the night sky.
6. Go to a museum...or all of them
This is old news, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less true: Museums are the bee’s knees. Art museums impart an appreciation for culture, history and aesthetics; Children’s museums are full of sensory activities and other age-appropriate (often hands-on) educational delights; Natural history museums will inspire a budding Indiana Jones, and aerospace museums will do the same for aspiring astronauts. There are a lot of museums out there and you can file all of them under the ‘worthy field trip’ category. And now you can check out some of the world’s greatest museums using just your computer.
7. Visit an observatory
Planetariums, star-gazing—both are great. But if you have an observatory nearby, you’re truly sitting pretty. These buildings, often associated with universities and research institutes, house high-powered telescopic equipment that provides an unparalleled view of the planets as well as various weather and terrestrial events. Ground-based observatories require certain conditions, namely high altitude and a healthy distance from big city pollution, but if you can reasonably make the trek, the view will be well worth the effort.
8. Stroll through a cemetery
It sounds a little grim, but don’t fear the reaper. The truth is that death is everywhere in education—presidents, civil rights leaders, celebrated poets and artists—so you might as well take it all in with a pleasant cemetery stroll. The atmosphere is reliably peaceful so your homeschooled student can enjoy a calm tour of the grounds, discovering not just the graves, but also the contributions of local historical figures every step of the way.
9. Visit the courthouse and observe a trial
Law and order are a big deal (hey, there’s a reason why the show ran for two decades). In all seriousness though, a criminal justice unit should be required curriculum...and seeing is better than reading. Take this field trip more than once with your homeschooled students to observe open trials (you might want to vet them for appropriateness) and then open up a dialogue. The intricacies of crime and punishment are admittedly rather daunting (just like the book), but early exposure to the judicial process and open dialogue are key educational components.
10. Tour a local factory
There are few lessons as valuable as the one gained from watching people actually making things. After all, it’s that very process which feeds the imaginations of children (“but how did they put it together?”) and inspires so much pride (the tower they built, the drawing they made). Yep, all it takes is a quick phone call and, from there, it’s easy enough to tour a factory. In fact, most workers would likely be excited to share their craft with a curious, young mind. Hint: This field trip makes it very easy (necessary) to include labor union history and the concept of solidarity in your lesson plan.
11. Visit a greenhouse
Greenhouse gasses, greenhouse vegetables: Tomato, tomahto? There’s a good chance your kid is legitimately asking that question. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with greenhouse tomatoes, so sweet and juicy even in January, and everything wrong with the similarly named gasses, so why not incorporate an actual greenhouse field trip to address both topics? Plus, even if your pupil doesn’t come away with a solid understanding of the ‘greenhouse effect,’ you’ll probably be able to score some pretty sweet produce.
12. Tour a water treatment facility
Look, your kid has been fascinated with his own poop from a very young age so instead of fielding all the questions yourself (what happens to it when I flush?!), opt for a trip to a water treatment facility and let the experts do the talking for you. Water treatment processes are one of those complex, interesting things we far too often take for granted (i.e., ideal field trip material).
13. Visit a veterinarian
Call up a local vet and ask if you can bring your young animal-lover in for a tour and an opportunity to observe the medical care given to beloved pets. Field trips that offer an inside look at a specific career are an excellent way to help kids explore an area of interest—or discover a new one.
14. Visit a local farm
Whether it’s picking apples, petting goats or seeing how maple syrup is made, kids will love a visit to a nearby farm. And if you turn the trip into a science lesson about tending to animals and growing crops then parents will love the experience, too. Just don’t forget to bring some of that fresh produce home with you.
15. Tour a post office
When it comes to services that are quite often taken for granted, the postal service is right at the top of the list. Right that wrong with a visit to a local postal office so you child can see firsthand the work that goes into sorting and sending mail from point A to point B—just be sure to arrange this one in advance so your pupil gets a proper tour.
Teach your child about civic careers with a trip to a local fire station or police station. This field trip is easy to arrange with a phone call and firefighters and police officers alike will be happy to show a curious kid around the station and talk to them about the community-minded job they do.
17. Visit a Native American site or museum
It’s important to speak to children about difficult moments in America’s history and teach them about the people who lived on this land well before the settlers came. If there are no museums nearby focusing on Native American culture or history, then do some research to see what Native lands you’re living on.
18. Stroll through a sculpture garden
Sculpture gardens offer an excellent opportunity to appreciate visual art while also enjoying some fresh air. If there’s a sculpture garden in your area, schedule a visit for a sunny day and encourage your student to explore the way in which the sculptures interact with their natural surroundings. Depending on the rules of your local sculpture park, you might even consider packing a picnic and really taking your time.
19. Tour the places written about in a favorite book
If your student has read any books written by an author from your home state, you might be able to identify references to real places—streets, cafes, bookstores—in the text. This one takes a little research, but the pay-off is a field trip that promises to bring literature to life and inspire a love of reading and writing alike.
20. Visit different places of worship
No matter what religion, if any, you practice in your home, exposure to different faiths is an important way to encourage your kid to celebrate diversity. If your child has expressed interest in religious studies or if spiritual nourishment is high on your priority list, a whirlwind tour of several houses of worship is an excellent opportunity to learn about different beliefs, while promoting the value of open-mindedness.