Providing engaging, affordable, home school field trips and activities is always a challenge. My family enjoyed these spring activities so much that my children have asked to do them again. Changes can be made to meet the specific needs of your children.
1. Plant flowers in Personalized Pots: Children love taking care of their own plants and watching them grow. This is a fun activity if you don’t have space or time for a garden. Most of the items you need can be found at a dollar store or discount department store. These are the steps I took for this project:
- First, purchase cheap, plastic flower pots, water proof paint and markers, seeds, and potting soil.
- Second, have children paint their flower pots and allow paint to dry over night.
- The next day, let them personalize their pots with their name and whatever other ideas they may have.
- Finally, plant the seeds according to the instructions on the seed packets.
2. Botanical Scavenger Hunt and Picnic: Most botanical gardens are very inexpensive to visit. Plan a scavenger hunt and picnic for your next field trip for a day of sunshine, fun, exercise and learning. Let your children plan the menu for the picnic and see what kind of healthy food choices they can make. Encourage fresh fruits and vegetables, low fat cheese sticks, high protein trail mixes, etc. These are some steps I took to plan our scavenger hunt:
- Visit the website of the botanical garden in your area to see what kinds of plants and wildlife can be found in the gardens.
- Make a list of items to find by naming and describing the item. You could even print out a picture of what the plant, tree or wildlife looks like. You may even find a printable brochure with pictures on it that you could use as a list. (Examples of listed ‘treasure’ items: a yellow butterfly, a monarch butterfly, a yellow rose, a dogwood tree, a red bird, etc.)
- Help younger children find the items on their list and check them off.
- Older children could take pictures of the items they find and later print the pictures to make a collage of the items they saw on their field trip. You could easily turn this into a science report or art activity. The Ft. Worth Botanical Garden has wonderful website that includes ideas for family activities, a schedule of guided tours, and printable lists of plants and wildlife that allows the student to fill in the blanks to create a list of the items they find.
3. Science Project at the Zoo: Although the zoo can be more expensive, many zoos offer a half price day or other discounted times. Spring is a great time to visit the zoo because the animals are very active and the weather is usually not too hot or too cold. We had a fun day of learning by putting animals into categories with a simple homemade chart. All of these steps can be adjusted as appropriate to fit the age or grade level of the children.
- First, create a chart using columns to categorize the animals you find at the zoo. Some categories you might include are: primates, felines, mammals, reptiles, fowl, amphibians, etc. (On our chart, some animals fit into more than one category, such as primates, which are also are mammals.)
- After your visit to the zoo, have the child identify one animal that they were unfamiliar with and one that is their favorite animal.
- Then, have your child draw a picture of one of these two animals they identified.
- Have your child look up information about the animal they drew, using an online source and an encyclopedia.
- Finally have them write a report about the animal and then present it to the ‘class’ or other family members.