Category Archives: Field Trips

Fall Leaves and Gingersnaps! (Recipe at Bottom!)

We went on one of my favorite fall outings today!  Armed with a great book, some craft supplies, and a pile of snacks, we headed up the canyon near our house to explore fall in one of its best displays!

After throwing rocks and leaves in the river for a while (an activity you simply can’t skip over with my boys)  we gathered with some friends to read Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert.  I really enjoy sharing this book with children!  The illustrations are all made up of photocopied leaves.  It’s a fantastic creative collage approach that really gets kids thinking outside of the box.  After the story, we went for a little hike to gather some of our favorite leaves and bring them back to our picnic spot to create our own leaf pictures. 

Leaf Man (Ala Notable Children's Books. Younger Readers (Awards))

Using black cardstock as a background, similar to the dark background in the book, the children arranged their collections of leaves.  Some made people, others created monsters, while some simply arranged their colorful collections.  Once they were all in place, we sealed them down with a layer of contact paper.  The black background really makes those fall colors pop!  And as long as the leaves are dry, the contact paper seals them in, preserving them for years!  (You can read more about what I wrote on this activity here.  Apologies for the sub-par photo!)

And of course, we had to cap the activity off with some fall treats!  There are some snacks I just have to make every time the fall season rolls around, and gingersnaps are one of them!  Try a batch for yourself (the recipe’s at the bottom), and serve them up with some apple cider.  If you could taste fall, it would taste like this!

What are your favorite fall treats?

Soft Gingersnaps

1 1/2 cups sugar

3 eggs

3/4 cup molasses

1 1/2 cup oil

1 1/2 tsp. salt

1 1/2 tsp. cloves

3 tsp. ginger

3 tsp. cinnamon

3 tsp. soda

6 cups flour

Mix the sugar, eggs, molasses, and oil.  Then add in the salt, soda, and spices and mix well.  (Or for you Martha Stewarts out there, go ahead and sift the salt, soda, and spices with your flour.  I’m just not that ambitious!)  Gradually add the flour and mix until a consistent dough forms.  Form into  balls and roll in sugar.  Place on a cookie sheet and flatten slightly with a glass.  Bake at 350 for about 8 minutes.  Makes about 4 dozen large cookies.

Top photo by silgluck.

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Filed under Create, Field Trips, Learning through Play and Experience, Recipes - Edible, Uncategorized

Out and About – Field Trip Ideas for a Garden Theme

If you’re exploring seeds, plants, and flowers with your preschoolers this spring, it’s always great to get out and discover some applications within that theme on a field trip!  Field trips don’t have to be elaborate.  Most often, I would say that knowing that the host can connect with your children and offer them hands-on opportunities at their level is worth far more than an extravagant locale.  Finding everyday, familiar places and then exploring them in-depth, allows the children to make more connections with their previous knowledge, and helps them to reconnect that knowledge again as they visit in the future.   Here are some field trip ideas within the garden theme. 

Florists- Invite a florist to show your children some of the tricks of the trade.  Children will be in awe of the tools that are used, the variety of flowers, and the arrangements that can be created.  Ask the florist to create a simple arrangement while the children watch, thinking out loud all the while, simply narrating the process of making an arrangement.  Some florists may even be willing to help a few children at a time make small arrangements using flowers left over from an event or those that have just passed their prime.  Having an experience like this would certainly enhance a floral shop themed dramatic play area!

Nurseries and Greenhouses-  This is a great option, particularly if spring is a little late in coming to your area!  Have someone show you around the greenhouse, showing how plants are started and cared for even in the cold!  Many nurseries will also have a garden center where you can have your host show the children seeds, tools, and other supplies used for growing a garden.  You may want contact your local extension office or a nearby university or college for some great greenhouse experiences.

Visit a “Famous” Garden – Most areas have some kind of green space, notorious for its gardens.  Whether it’s a park, a community garden, a professional botanical garden, or an accomplished hobbyist in your neighborhood with a backyard botanical display, take advantage of a great garden that your children are familiar with.  See if you can get a gardener to show you around and talk about how the plants have been cared for.

Neighborhood Garden Tour – I recently took my boys on a short, slow drive through our neighborhood (as a means of soothing a tantrum that had exploded as we were leaving another location).  With the windows rolled down and the cool spring air flowing in, we took turns pointing out vibrant yellow forsythia bushes, talked about how grape hyacinths got their name, and kept our eyes out for puffy white trees in bloom.  You could do the same on a family drive or as a walking field trip through your school’s neighborhood. 

Into the Wild-  Don’t overlook the unmanicured, more natural locations for exploring plant life.  Natural forests, woodlands, wetlands, deserts, canyons – whatever you have available!  Even an expedition into the empty lot, pasture, or backyard  – accompanied by a spade, a magnifying glass, and a camera – can yield great finds!

Don’t forget the parents!  You may have a parent in your class who is a master gardener, a landscaper, or a farmer.  Tap in to these resources, as they are often the most eager to help and the most apt to relate to the age group!  So often, when asking parents, you can simply say, “Show us what your child finds most interesting about what you do!”

Remember that many of the excursions listed above could be adapted for a class visitor experience as well.  Invite the florist or gardener to come to you.  Encourage them to bring some of the tools they use and some samples of their work.  It’s always fun to see what the children really zero in on.  (I’ll never forget how fascinated a group of preschoolers were with the stretchy green floral tape our florist visitor brought in!) 

Also remember that any visitor or excursion is a great opportunity to create a class book (similar to this activity).  You may want to take the pictures during the activity, or have each child in a small group take one picture of their favorite specimen or activity.  You can work together with the children to write the text in their own words to accompany the pictures.  Read it to them often and give it a spot in your library!  It’s sure to be one of their favorite books!

Enjoy a trip out and about with your little ones!

Photo by horizonaus.

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Field Trips for Preschool Foodies

If you’re looking for a food-themed field trip destination for your preschoolers the possibilities are almost endless!  Here are just a few suggestions:

Local Grocery Store– Most stores would accomodate you for a field trip, showing the areas of the store (bakery decorates a cake, deli slices some ham samples, etc.), the back stock rooms, and enormous refrigerators.  Some even have formal education programs.  Children love to see someplace familiar in a new way!  Contact the customer service desk at your local favorite shopping spot!

Bakeries, Pizza Parlors, or other Restaurants – Many places would love to show you how they make their wares and even let your kiddos get in on the action, making their own samples.  Call around or work your connections and see what they can offer to show and tell your little ones!

Food Factories – Seeing food transform from raw product to packaged and ready to sell, is almost magical!  Check your local area for cheese factories, candy factories, cookie factories, or what-have-you.  Many have field trip programs and/or observation decks.

Go to the Source – Farms are where it all begins!  If you live near a dairy farm or other farm, you may be able to get a peek at how food really starts its journey to our tables!

Find a Fellow Foodie – Do you have a friend who is an amateur chef extraordinaire?  Go to the his or her kitchen or invite him or her to come to your class and lead the little ones in a cooking project or to show some of the best culinary gadgets and how they work!

As with all field trips and visitors, check in advance for availability, restrictions, and costs.  Be sure to be clear with your guide/visitor about your objectives, the ages of your children, and some examples of what you’d like the experience to be like.

Any other great foodie field trip ideas you’d like to share?

For more food-themed activities, click here!

Top photo by oboi.

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A Trip to the Dinosaur Museum Puts Us All in the Author’s Chair

When you’re studying dinosaurs with preschoolers, nothing really takes the place of a trip to a dinosaur museum or another hands-on dinosaur experience.  Check in your local area and see what options you may have.  Don’t forget to check into nearby universities as some have free exhibits or perhaps a professor (or maybe a grad student) who would meet with your group of little ones and show a few prehistoric specimen.

When I took a group of preschoolers to a dinosaur museum lately, I was sure to pack along my camera.  I took pictures of the children as they explored, but I also took a lot of pictures of the dinosaurs themselves.  After printing the pictures, I put each one on a single page and then combined the pages for a book.  I shared the book during large group as we talked about the trip.  We had been learning through lots of great dinosaur books.  I told the children that they were now the dinosaur experts, that this was their book, and they needed to add the words to go with the pictures. 

Throughout the next few weeks, I occasionally asked some of the children during self-selected time if they had anything to add to the book.  Sometimes, children would come to me with the book, wanting to share their thoughts.  The children would dictate their ideas and I would write, adding their names at the end of the comments so that everyone could see who had contributed.  It was great to see the children pull out resource books to identify the dinosaurs in our own book.  I would ask these children to read each letter of the dinosaurs’ names to me, so that I could spell them correctly.  It was a great way to reinforce their field trip experience while also incorporating fantastic language and prereading skills!  On top of it all, the children were very proud of their own book in our classroom library, and loved to “read” from it!  Try it for yourself  with your next field trip!

Click here for more dinosaur ideas!

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Filed under book activity, Building Readers, Field Trips, language activity, Learning through Play and Experience, science activity