CCEI’s April newsletter focuses on ways that programs can enhance nature-based learning experiences. One suggestion for increasing the amount of time that children spend exploring nature is to take field trips and take nature walks. These community outings are great opportunities to reap the many benefits that come with time spent in nature.
When planning field trips and nature walks, there are a few things that teachers should keep in mind. Decisions about the appropriateness of potential field trip sites and walking routes should be based on the answers to the questions below.
Health and Safety:
- Will there be access to drinking water, bathrooms, and handwashing?
- Are there potential hazards that must be avoided?
- Are there areas of shade?
- Is there a seating area for eating or resting?
- What are the missing child procedures at the site and who is the contact person in the event that a child goes missing?
- Does the site require special clothing or shoes?
- Is the space accessible for children with disabilities?
- Has the site been inspected by someone on staff to get a lay of the land?
- Are there incident reports that indicate that the site is not appropriate for young children?
- How many staff members are required to provide adequate supervision?
- Does the site provide learning opportunities that align with what the children are capable of doing?
- If there is an on-site tour or lesson planned – is it hands-on and does it match the attention span of the children?
- Are the children capable of meeting the physical demands of the outing?
- How does this site relate to children’s interests?
- What will children have the opportunity to learn/explore?
- How does this site connect to children’s current knowledge?
- How can the outing be tied to the curriculum?
- What are the goals or learning outcomes of the trip?
These are just a few of the questions that should be answered when picking locations for nature exploration. In addition to the child care licensing rules regarding field trips, teachers should also consider how they will prepare children for the excursion and what kinds of follow-up activities should be planned upon returning to the building.