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Bringing Outside Experiences into Your Center

Daughter swinging

Field trips offer children the opportunity to learn about a subject in a more hands-on and immersive way than they can absorb while sitting down in a classroom. Teaching and learning experiences outside of the confines of the four walls of a school have a range of benefits for both students and educators. Museums, art galleries, farms, and zoos are all examples of trips that allow children to explore new environments, make connections, problem-solve, and build trust, and empathy.

However, for early learning centers, field trips can be especially challenging. For example, they may be logistically challenging to organize, requiring everything from transportation to extra staff to permission slips. Families may be concerned about the risks for young children and unsure about allowing their little ones to attend, or unable to afford the costs associated.

Fortunately, there are additional ways to offer enriching experiences that expose young children to new experiences. Some mobile field trips or outreach programs may come to your location if travel isn’t possible or in your budget, and it is worth contacting local organizations in your community:

  • Agricultural organizations in your area may offer experiences such as bringing baby farm animals
  • Local dentists and doctors can provide basic ‘show and tell’ health and hygiene tips
  • Firefighters have educational materials about fire safety
  • Wildlife rescue
  • Theater companies
  • Puppet performers
  • Animal shelter or ASPCA

Don’t forget friends and family! Throughout their network, you may find people who can offer an experience that preschoolers would enjoy, such as pottery-making, or a simple sport. Families and local organizations can also share cultural activities such as singing songs or celebrating traditions, especially those celebrated by the children in your care, and they can be a wonderful way for children to learn about diverse cultures. These are important steps in building cultural competence and making children feel safe, included, and accepting of other cultures. According to the American Psychological Association, children as young as three are aware of differences such as gender, ethnicity, and disability.  

Establishing a school garden is a longer-term project which will promote lifelong healthy eating habits and connect children to the natural world, including plants and insects. There are many activities to channel toddler energy and build learning and confidence. And of course, many children are more open to eating an unfamiliar fruit or vegetable if they have grown it themselves. Gardening doesn’t just impact healthy eating – it has been linked to academic gains in the areas of math and science, and overall improvement on standardized achievement tests has been well documented.

Virtual field trips are another option. For everything from aquariums to museums, to palaces, to planetariums, there are virtual field trips, as well as virtual zoo tours and animal cams to offer children the opportunity to see animals in real-time and up close.

However, if you manage to give preschool children a field trip experience, you can be sure it will enthrall, inspire, and support your center’s learning objectives.

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Catherine Hershey Schools for Early Learning are subsidiaries of Milton Hershey School and will be staffed and operated independently of the Milton Hershey School core model.

Catherine Hershey Schools for Early Learning admits students of any race, color, national and ethnic origin to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the school. It does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national and ethnic origin in administration of its educational policies, admissions policies, scholarship and loan programs, and athletic and other school-administered programs.