November 2011 Issue
October 27, 2011

Class trips: Exploring the outdoors

Source: NYSUT United

Class trips have become vulnerable to budget cuts, but educators can still find ways to help their students explore and learn beyond the classroom.

Here are some tips from

  • Kids love exploring nature, so you can't go wrong with excursions that highlight colorful plants, scary animals and rock-dwelling creepy crawly things. Take advantage of what is locally available — any generic park, pond or wildlife area will do — and adapt existing off-site class plans to the unique attractions in your own community.
  • The National Park Service website,, offers teachers hundreds of detailed activities and tools through the "Parks as Classrooms" program. Follow the links from "Park Smart" to "The Learning Place" to "Curriculum-Based Education Programs" to find pre- and post-field trip ideas.
  • There are three excellent supplements to the NPS site: Project Learning Tree,; the National Wildlife Federation,; and the Environmental Protection Agency,, all provide environmental education links to curricula, activities, kits, audio-visual aids and print materials. In addition, the EPA site lists community service projects and opportunities for teacher grants and awards.
  • When you've returned from exploring a park, perhaps your students would benefit from another hands-on experience. How about creating a schoolyard habitat? You'll find grade-level gardening projects and information on everything from worms to herbs to greenhouses to hydroponics at, the National Gardening Association's website. Search the Teachers' Resource Room for a list of gardening grants, as well as recommendations by education specialists on age-appropriate reading material. To get your habitat started, register in the "Garden in Every School" program and receive free seeds from the America the Beautiful Fund. From there, visit to register for a free catalog full of hands-on educational products.
  • Find zoo class plans, including "Zoo Trips," "Zoo Tips" and "Zoo Snooze" in English, Spanish and Portuguese at, home of the Children's Education Project of Wildlife Preservation Trust International. While there, take advantage of the excellent teachers' message board to compare notes and share curricula.
  • Friends of the National Zoo,, has several relevant curriculum links: "Using the Zoo to Teach Life Science and other Subjects," "Zoo-Based Teacher Training," "Planning Your Visit" and "Resources to Use at the Zoo," which can all be found at the Teachers Resource Guide.