Not all learning takes place within the classroom. Field trips
can be a fantastic way for students to solidify or even expand
their knowledge, as these examples illustrate.
Getting to know nature
When the Preschool and Kindedrgarten kids from Montessori
Language Academy in Forest Park visited the
Morton Arboretum this fall, they had sensorial experience of
seasons and nature. They could touch plants, feel water, listen to
sound, climb on the tree house during a nice fall day where nature
and the playground were combined. Teachers appreciate the
combination of learning and gross motor exercise all within the
Each year, PreK through 2nd Grade students at Da Vinci
Academy in Elgin participate in a Humane Education unit. This
year's theme is Nature and The Outdoors, so the students went to
the Morton Arboretum to learn about trees and their important role
in the environment. The students enjoyed an educational tour
through the grounds, plus time to explore on their own. "We were
able to study how man and nature interact, as well as the
relationships of animals and nature," said Mirielle Strasser, PreK
Fourth graders at
Lake Forest Country Day School (LFCDS) participate in the
Earthkeepers program at Lake Forest Open Lands every fall. The
program emphasizes hands-on learning about ecology and good
environmental practices, allowing students to see first-hand how
all living things are interconnected on earth, and how human
actions affect the environment.
Students spend three days at Lake Forest Open Lands completing
various projects in groups as well as solo in order to earn their
Earthkeeper "K.E.Y.S." Each key stands for a concept-Knowledge,
Experience, Yourself, and Sharing. Students received the metal keys
as reminders of what they learned.
Fourth grade teacher Kathy Morrissey noticed how engaged the
children were in the process this year: "Our students were taught
to stay in the moment, to really notice nature. They were reminded
not to talk about other aspects of their lives while learning in
nature. It helped them to get really close to the experience." Mrs.
Kelley especially enjoyed the fact that teachers had the chance to
"explore with the students. We experience the wonder of learning
with our students and seeing the earth differently. We are reminded
to look at things with new eyes."
The learning experience continues in the classroom daily, as
students engage new habits, change their lifestyles, and share what
they have learned with others in order to earn their last two keys.
With their new knowledge in hand and the unique experience of
nature fresh in their minds, these fourth graders have learned
life-long lessons in protecting their earth.
St. Zachary School's preschool classes, morning went to
Goeberrt's Pumpkin Farm in Barrington. For some of these kids it
was their first time to a pumpkin farm. The moms and dads and
grandmas were there too. They watched a video about the farm and
how they harvest their fruits and vegetables year round and when
they start planting pumpkin seeds.
After the video everyone went on a hayride around the farm and
through the pumpkin patches. When they got back they walked through
three tents of exotic animals. The farm has a corn maze to walk
through and some zoo animals to see. The kids even got to pick out
a pumpkin and a couple of gourds to take home and the classroom got
to choose a big pumpkin to carve. The kids liked everything about
the farm, especially the animals.
James School first grade classes recently visited Pine Apple
Acres in Huntley. They had an opportunity to explore the apple
orchard, pick apples and learn about the importance of bees and the
different apple varieties. First grade teachers used the trip as
the basis for several science and language activities related to
apples, including lessons about the importance of bees in the
pollination of apple trees and other fruits, a discussion about the
lifecycle of apple trees, and a visit to the science lab to dissect
apples and examine them with hand lenses. Students also had an
opportunity to taste several varieties of apples. The class used
math skills to complete a graph showing their favorite apples. As a
culminating activity, the students completed books about their trip
to the apple orchard. They also wrote a thank you letter to the
owner of the apple farm.
Every year the seventh and eighth year students from Brickton
Montessori School travel deep into the heart of America's
Dairyland, spending a week living and working on the Volenec Dairy
Farm in Loyal, which is near Marshfield. The farm is owned and
operated by Bob and Sue Volenec, founding parents of Brickton
While at the farm, students are up at 5:00 a.m. to prepare
udders for milking, attach the milk machine, shovel manure, feed
the cows, and tend to the heifers and baby calves. It is not until
8:30 a.m. that they can think about breakfast. Then at 4:00 p.m.,
it is back out to the barn for the second milking of the day. In
between, there are various farm chores to be done, bringing down
hay from the hay mow, laying down bedding for the cows,
replenishing feed containers. Some students even have a chance to
milk the cows by hand, not an easy task. On clear nights, they can
see the stars, and this year were able to take in meteor showers
and a glimpse of the space shuttle making its way across the
northern night sky.
Park West Cooperative Nursery School visited North Park Village
Nature Center for a day of fun. The primary purpose of trips like
this is not necessarily factual information about nature, but
rather to give some experience of being on their feet, on the move,
away from buildings, among the trees and bushes, dirt roots and
rocks beneath their feet (on established trails, of course),
feeling branches scrape against their jackets, tromp on the
boardwalk, through grass taller than a grown-up, sinking in mud at
the edge of the pond, the puffs of the cattails, the flash of a
red-wing blackbird, the geese coming closer to warn us away or ask
for food, the knocking of a woodpecker that turned out to be a
jackhammer from a construction site next door, the roar of a lion
that turned out to be the Skokie Yellow Line. The combination of
fresh air and anticipation of adventure made for an exhilarating
Academy in LaGrange Highlands is dedicated to community
outreach and the socialization for their many students. A favorite
field trip is to Acacia Academy's own 2 ½ acre Nature Center. Due
to the increasing concerns of Nature Deficit Disorders that are
developing throughout the nation, students at Acacia offer field
trips to other schools and interested parties of all ages. Acacia
students guide visitors through water gardens, insect, wild flower
and plant gardens, apple orchards, forested areas, outdoor
sculpture displays, and "break-out" study areas.
Acacia Academy's theme of "No Child Left Inside," is also
explored at the Morton Arboretum. The students scout out nature's
excitement and fun there while exploring the habitats and daily
happenings around the Arboretum while hiking the trails. The
students discover interesting interactions between wildlife, plants
and more with hands-on investigations in the Children's Garden and
the maze. All of Acacia's field trips are curriculum based and the
students are prepared to gain the maximum educational benefits from
Kindergarten students from Sacred
Heart Schools in Chicago visited the Chicago Symphony Orchestra
to see and hear the "Mother Goose and More!" Concert, which
introduces children to the best in music. The concert series
inspired students to discover and hear about familiar stories (and
some new ones) and learn about the composers who brought them to
life. "It's awe inspiring to be in box seats in Orchestra Hall and
hear the CSO in person. Just think how wonderful it is to
experience that at 5 years old." Lynne Feeley, Primary School
This October, the 8th-grade students at
North Park Elementary School visited the North Park Village
Nature Center to learn about local flora and fauna first hand as
well as to create and photograph natural art installations. Prior
to the trip, the students studied and discussed the work of artist
Andy Goldsworthy, who creates outdoor installations using only
found materials, such as fallen leaves and rocks.
Working in small groups, the students manipulated found objects
to alter the landscape, and then documented their pieces with
photographs. Before venturing into the woods, a Nature Center staff
member gave the students a brief history of the area and mentioned
animals they might see as they explored the more remote sections of
the nature center. "The students produced some interesting and
successful images. And, even though it was raining lightly, they
enjoyed the fresh air and freedom of being outside in nature." Ms.
Janice Hovey, K-8 Art Teacher.
Lutheran School's 2nd and 4th grade classes traveled from River
Forest to Naperville to see the illustrations by Mike Venezia
painted on the outside of the Naperville Art League's Fine Art
Center and Gallery. They also met the artist. Venezia is the
author/illustrator of the "Getting to Know" series, books for
children on the world's greatest artists, composers, inventors, and
scientists. In the weeks before the field trip students had read
many of the biographies of artists in the series and the children
recognized many of the book's illustrations in the mural. Students
were able to buy their own copies of the books and Mr. Venezia
autographed them. Cries of "Who's got Calder? Who's got Cassatt?"
were heard all the way home on the bus as students read and
exchanged the books.
As part of its arts curriculum, Oak Park's Ascension
School provides many opportunities for students to attend live
performances of music and dance. The highlight of the music field
trips is in seventh grade when students have a two part trip to
"We spend several weeks preparing for the opera trip," says Mrs.
Barbara Creed, Ascension's music teacher. "We study the libretto,
paying particular attention to the plot so that the students
understand what they're hearing. We listen to the music so that
they recognize portions of the opera when they are at the
performance. Then we have a tour of Lyric Opera. The staff at the
Lyric does a wonderful job of explaining the opera world to the
class and that helps build excitement for the second part of the
field trip - the actual performance."
As operas are performed in their original language, Mrs. Creed
makes sure students can follow good translations of the more famous
arias while in class. The students attend a matinee performance,
usually for a presentation of an opera with which they or their
parents might be familiar. In March, this year's seventh grade will
see The Elixir of Love by Donizetti.
Every grade at Queen of
Angels School in Chicago visited the Art Institute of Chicago.
The goal was to view the modern wing and see examples of the
original works of art studied through books and projects. "As a
third-grade mom, I was inspired as I heard the children's
observations; they saw so many things I didn't see. And they were
connecting what they learned in the classroom to the original
works. What an amazing opportunity our kids have. " Anne Marie
When 5th graders from Saint
Andrew in Chicago visited the National Museum of Mexican Art,
they saw and discussed traditional and modern altars for The Day of
the Dead celebration. The work relates back to their art and
Spanish classes. In art, all students create a work of art to be
placed on a school wide altar that is displayed each year in the
front entrance of the school. Families and faculty also place
photographs of loved ones who have passed away on the altar. In
Spanish, students learn vocabulary that relates to the holiday.
Every day is a field trip at The
Second City Training Center. Kids in Grade K - 12 are given
Introduction to Improvisation - The fundamentals of improvisation
as taught and practiced at The Second City, covering the concepts
and skills of listening, stage presence, environment, and character
through interactive exercises and games.
Resurrection College Prep High School Campus Ministry conducted
a Food Drive in preparation for Thanksgiving by collecting canned
and boxed foods and monetary contributions in support of the food
pantry at New Hope Methodist Church in Norwood Park. Religious
studies teacher Kathy LaSorella's senior level Prayer and Liturgy
class organized the Food Drive and brought the food to New Hope
At Resurrection, students are encouraged to serve others and
develop into caring, compassionate and respectful while
participating in a wide variety of service opportunities.
Resurrection students are taught to recognize their ability to make
a difference in the lives of others by answering the call to
Students in Grades 4, 5 and 6 at Chicago
Jewish Day School traveled to Care for Real, the food pantry at
the Edgewater Community Council. Students toured the food pantry
and learned about the needs of families in the local community and
how this organization helps to meet those needs.
This trip was directly linked to a 6th Grade integrated unit of
Advisory and Judaic Studies which combines the ideas of the Jewish
response to hunger and poverty with a social action project
addressing the needs of hunger in our own community. In addition,
Chicago Jewish Day School families donated toiletries which
students in all grades put together in bags with cards they made to
be distributed to families from the food pantry. This was part of
the second annual Tikkun Olam Days, two half-days of social service
programs and workshops that all students participated in just
Beyond Illinois' borders
Sixth Grade students at Our
Lady of Perpetual Help School in Glenview journeyed to Camp
MacLean, a YMCA Camp in Burlington, WI. At Camp MacLean students
learn to enjoy the world around them. Through high ropes, wall
climbing and adventure course activities, they learn about
themselves and benefits of being part of a community.
Montessori Academy of Glen Ellyn participated in an overnight
experience at Timber-Lee in East Troy, Wisconsin. Timber Lee
involves both the teacher and the student in a direct, purposeful,
hands-on experience in its outdoor classroom. Students in Grades
2-6 went on night hikes, studied the constellations and
participated in orienteering classes.
The ropes course instilled trust, showed group dynamics and
brought out the natural leadership qualities in many of the
students. These qualities transferred seamlessly into the
classroom. The bond brought on by the Timber Lee field trip
enhanced the learning experience at school by defining the leaders,
improving the group dynamics and encouraging an open mind to
problem solving. The experience was punctuated by a more intense
desire to learn that carried throughout the year.
Seventh grade students from
Fox River Country Day School in Elgin traveled to Washington
D.C. for a first-hand history lesson about our country's founding
fathers and the risks they took to provide a free nation. Their
trip included visits to the Capitol Building, the Washington
Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, the Viet Nam Memorial, the
Jefferson Memorial, the Smithsonian Institution, and more. They
left with an honest appreciation for the freedoms and privileges
that we enjoy as citizens of the United States. Eighth grade
students traveled to the rainforest of Costa Rica, an ecological
wonderland filled with rare wildlife, plants and ecosystems.
This capstone trip in their graduating year provided the perfect
balance of environmental education, Spanish speaking opportunities,
and community service work. Since our students have daily
interaction on the school's forested fen (part of 53 acres of
natural woods), this trip gave them a perfect platform to see how a
delicate ecosystem and the importance of protecting our earth's
Fourth- through 12th-grade students from Elgin's Einstein
Academy spent a week experiencing hands-on activities at Sea
Camp in Big Pine Key, Florida. Activities reinforced their carious
marine biology units. Teachers felt it was the best hands-on field
trip ever, allowing students and faculty to share an incredible
Students and parent chaperones from St.
Joan of Arc Catholic School in Evanston took advantage of a day
off school to visit some unique Chicago destinations that broadened
students understanding of the city and the financial markets that
are based here. At the Chicago Fire Museum they learned about some
of the major fires that have shaped our city and saw a landmark
sculpture on the site of the great Chicago fire of 1971. They
continued on to learn about Chicago's financial markets, watching
the trading floor from the Chicago Mercantile Exchange Visitor
Next, they visited the Money Museum at the Federal Reserve Bank
of Chicago, where they enjoyed seeing a million dollars and took
home free samples of old money that had been shredded. The final
stop was to learn about one of Chicago's many diverse cultures with
lunch in Greek town and a visit to the National Hellenic Museum. At
the museum they learned about the cultural influence of the ancient
Greeks and discussed Greek myths and legends. "Field trips like
this enrich our curriculum by expanding on topics that we cover in
social studies," says Principal Gail Hulse. "As a small school we
try to take advantage of the many cultural resources available in
our area to enliven our teaching. We are lucky to have active
parents who enjoy initiating trips like this."
Students in all grades at St. Athanasius School in Evanston
participate in various exciting field trips throughout the year.
Grades 5-6 every other year go to Libertyville and experience
paddling in a French pierogue, a type of boat used by explorers in
the 1700s. Humanities Class 6-8 graders visit the new Holocaust
Museum in Skokie. Grades 7-8 French students travel by Metra to
visit a French pastry shop each Spring. Grades 7-8 PE students
visit Northwestern University's weight room each Spring to learn
how athletes get conditioned.
After a month long investigation of trains, PreK students at The Compass
School in Naperville traveled to the Naperville Train Station
to see real examples of various types of trains. They were able to
see commuter trains, freight trains etc. They explored the inside
of the station as well, seeing where tickets were purchased, and
where people wait for the train to arrive. The students brought
with them clipboards so that they could make sketches of the things
they saw while at the station. This documentation was used when
they arrived back at school to reflect back on their experiences at
the station. This field trip allowed the children to connect their
learning in the classroom with real life experiences.
In the early fall the 4-year-old classes from St.
Mark Preschool take a Metra Train Trip from Mount Prospect (to
Norwood Park in Chicago. The students walk to the train station,
and are given a special police escort when crossing Main Street.
The preschool is usually able to secure an entire train car where
they are able to choose either the upper or lower level seats and
personally give their ticket to the conductor.
Once at the Norwood Park train station, the students take a two
block walk to Norwood Park. On the way they pass a Fire Station and
have been lucky enough to receive an impromptu firehouse tour, and
even a visit inside a firetruck. Once at the park, it's free time
at the playground, followed by some fun parachute games, a healthy
snack, and then storytime. The school's director meets the students
at the park with a car filled with games, sand toys, snacks and
water. After about 2 hours it's back to the train station for the
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