Field trips are often the way we make science come alive for our students, but the pandemic has taken that option away from us. Luckily, our very own schools and school yards offer a treasure trove of opportunities to experience engaging STEM activities!
Birdwatching is one of my favorite outdoor activities to do with students. You can set up bird feeders, which a local bird club or business may be willing to help provide, to attract many beautiful birds to your school yard. Birdwatching can be incorporated into a variety of different lessons. You can also have your class participate in events like Audubon’s The Great Backyard Bird Count, where you log sightings and see what others are logging in real time. In colder weather, put bird feeders close to windows in the cafeteria, classroom or school library so that they are still observable.
Before a field trip, we used to visit the school cafeteria to pick up brown bag lunches. But have you ever considered making the cafeteria the trip’s destination? Kids visit the school cafeteria every day, but they often don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes. Cafeteria workers and food and nutrition personnel are often excited to share the mysteries of the school cafeteria with students. Paired with a video about school lunches from around the world, a visit to the school cafeteria provides a gateway to discussions about nutrition, food culture and likes and dislikes.
Finally, check your school’s teacher resources for Project Wild and Project Wet Teacher’s Guides. You can get these guides by completing teacher training with the Fish and Wildlife Association, but many of the lessons are also available online. They offer many engaging STEM-based learning activities that can make your classroom feel like a field trip. Consider working with a colleague to create several different stations for students to rotate through. Make it extra fun by spreading them out to different parts of the school!
Nothing quite replaces the feeling of a day-long field trip, but know that you have the power to create that same field trip magic right in your own school.