With summer approaching, many families will venture to zoos, parks, and museums for fun experiences in the city with their children.
Taking your kids out to explore the city is all about helping them make connections to the real-world. These are valuable opportunities to ignite children’s passions and curiosities, as well as increase cognitive and critical thinking skills in children.
So how can you make the most out of day trips with the kids?
We recently asked AltSchool teachers for tips on how to create high-quality experiences that help children grow in new ways.
Here's what they had to share:
1. Choose an experience that is connected to your child’s interests: Many of the trips we took this past year emerged from our students’ curiosities and passions. For example, one of our younger students developed a passion for boats - which then led to a curiosity of how food travels in boats. The desire to learn more about how food is distributed led to a trip to Good Eggs, a sustainable food delivery service located one block away from the Dogpatch classroom. Keep in mind, a day trip does not necessarily mean visiting a museum or science center. Sometimes even a trip to a grocery store or food delivery service can be highly educational for children.
2. Preview the Experience: If possible, map out the visit. Call ahead to find out what types of learning opportunities are available. Scope out the schedule to see what workshops or activities might benefit your child most. Then, preview the experience with your child. In a trip to the Diego Rivera Museum, our teachers pulled up one of Rivera’s murals online and engaged the children in a discussion about its meaning. When children witnessed the mural in person, they experienced a strong, meaningful connection to the painting’s characters and emotions.
3. Follow Your Child’s Lead and Ask Questions: Let your child enjoy the experience at their own pace and in their own way. Be ready to discuss any questions that arise. If you don’t know the answer, write the questions down or record your child’s questions as a voice memo on your phone. Returning to these questions later is a great way to continue the learning experience at home.
4. Play Games: Games engage children and increase their motivation to learn. So why not make a game of your experience? For a lesson on early American history, our K-1 class ventured to the Ferry Building Farmer’s Market to go on a scavenger hunt to find food items served at the first Thanksgiving meal. Children took photos of each item with their iPad camera and compared notes with each other afterwards. For more ideas, the Smithsonian has a list of learning games suitable for a museum visit.
5. Continue the Learning at Home: Consider ways for your child to recreate the experience at home - whether through an art project, science experiment, or media project. Return to the questions your child brought up and investigate answers together. Post-trip discussions often lead to the planning of your next trip to continue exploring the treasures of the city together.
In our second installment of this series, we provide teachers’ recommendations on the top places to take children to learn in the city.