Educational Field Trips for Families

Jun 10, 2021 | Articles, Summer learning

Educator-recommended Educational Field Trips for the Summer (in Western MA)

We are daydreaming about learning in the summer!! Our educators at The Community Classroom have been doing a bit of research about family educational field trips in preparation for the summer weeks ahead! This blog post is specifically for our families who live close to our physical classroom space in Florence, MA (though we’d love to welcome our out-of-state families to western Massachusetts for a summer visit!). 

Let’s be real. We know after only a few days this is what our kids do.

We can help! We’ve heard requests from a handful of our families about keeping the learning going through the long weeks of summer. So we’ve done some digging! Below is a curated list of educational field trips for families. We’ve included location, cost, best times to visit, whether you need to plan ahead, age groups, and content areas that each experience teaches. We’ve also organized the list around the weather (because we do live in New England where the weather can be fickle!).

Please note that this list is not inclusive: We’d love to hear your ideas as well!

Indoor Educational Field Trips 

  1. The David Ruggles Center for Early Florence History and Underground Railroad Studies

Location: Florence, MA

Cost: Suggested donation of $5 (but come on folks, let’s help this great resource out and do better!)

Best times to visit: It’s open on Sundays from 12-4 and by appointment

Plan ahead: They have tours! Tours with volunteers. A great way to get more bang for your buck!

Recommended age: 4th grade and up (though you know your child best)

Content area: History of Florence, history of the Underground Railroad, United States history that is not necessarily covered in our schools

Additional educator thoughts: This gem is right in our neighborhood! And there are so many connections to the community that our children live in that will help make this experience and learning real for them.

Additional Resources: Did we mention they have free curriculum for middle school and high school, including downloadable source packets and videos? Check those out here. We’d recommend using the source material and curriculum prior to the visit to build background knowledge and make it that much more real.

2. The Yiddish Book Center

Location: Amherst, MA

Cost: Suggested donations of $8/adult and free for children

Best times to visit: It’s open Thursdays through Mondays. It opens its doors again on June 24th (yay!).

Plan ahead: Make sure you are not visiting on a Jewish holiday, for they will be closed.

Recommended age: Tweens and up (though you know your child best)

Content area: World history, American history, literature, art

Additional educator thoughts: Folks, this is more than a book museum. It is the first Yiddish museum in the world! It’s set up to replicate a small, eastern European town and has many exhibits to teach about and honor the Jewish culture. They currently have an exhibit on female resistors in World War 2.

Additional resources: Explore their robust digital library prior to your visit. Plus, do you know they have a summer high school reading program featuring great Jewish books? Registration is closed for this year, but sign up to get notifications for next summer’s.

3. Magic Wings

Location: South Deerfield, MA

Cost: Kids under 3 free, 3-17 are $10, $15 for the grown-ups

Best times to visit: It’s closed on Mondays. Also, it’s operating at 100% capacity so we’d suggest getting there early

Plan ahead: The cafe is still not open and there are no food and drinks allowed, so pack a cooler in the car.

Recommended age: Any age

Content areas: Lepidoptery, biology, math (hey, there could be a lot of mathematical wonderings with butterflies!)

Additional educator thoughts: We’d suggest researching a favorite few types of butterflies ahead of time that your little will see at Magic Wings. Then they can identify it there. It would also be fun to have your child bring a science journal to sketch and label sightings or write down questions for further research.

Additional Resources: Check out this listing of butterflies in Massachusetts

Outdoor Educational Field Trips 

1. The Dinosaur Footprints

Location: Holyoke, MA

Cost: Free 

Best times to visit: The little parking lot can get full on days that are good for fishing (do with that what you’d like!)

Plan ahead: This is an 8-acre area where you can walk where the dinosaurs walked! Wear shoes that you can romp around in. And you might want to download the trail map ahead of time.

Recommended age: Toddlers +

Content areas: History of the pioneer valley, science, paleontology, geology

Additional educator thoughts: Check out the website ahead of time so you can research what you are going to see. There are 4 types of dinosaurs you will rendezvous with, including some of the earliest known.

Additional resources: We love the Nash Dinosaur Footprints in Granby too, but it doesn’t seem to have reopened after the pandemic.

2. Chesterfield Gorge Reservation

Location: Chesterfield, MA

Cost: $2.50 for adults, free for kids.Trustee members get in free.

Best times to visit: On days that it is REALLY hot, you’ll notice it is remarkably cooler in the gorge! We’ve found it to be almost 10 degrees cooler once you start decreasing elevation.

Plan ahead: Shoes for hiking are a must! And if you are looking to cool off, the river is THE BEST swimming hole. There’s plenty of space to spread out from others. Be sure to pack the bug spray and a picnic. And if you are a fly fisherperson, grab your gear.

Recommended age: Toddlers + (though there are some steep parts if your little one is an adventurous runner—you may want to bring a sturdy stroller)

Content areas: History of the pioneer valley, geology, water’s impact on land, history of the earth’s formation, U.S. history, biology, ecology

Additional educator thoughts: This struck us as one of the coolest and most unique geological features in the valley. You can walk along the edge of the canyon and look at layers in the gorge, boulders left behind, potholes created by swirling rocks, and other pieces that history has left behind. And it’s mind-blowing to think that you are looking at what once was mud on the bottom of an ancient seabed. Carved by glacial action and rushing river water, it’s truly breathtaking. See if you can find the remnants of an old bridge that was used during the Revolutionary War and was used after the Battle of Saratoga. 

Additional Resources: This video by Connecting Point gives a great overview. 

3. Historic Deerfield

Location: Deerfield, MA

Cost: Free for those under 18 and residents of South Deerfield and Deerfield, $15 for adults until June 30th, $18 after June 30th 

Best times to visit: Check the website above to find times it’s open 

Plan ahead: Their website states that they are planning to have at least one historical house open for tour and then hope to add more as the weeks go on. Check their website to see what the tours include before you go. Also, see if your local library has a library pass you can use for the ticket.

Recommended age: 4th grade+

Content areas: History of the Pioneer Valley, U.S. history

Additional educator thoughts: This is a piece of living history, right in our backyard. Native Americans lived in the valley for over 8000 years, then a village settled by the English since 1669. Just a heads up for the caregivers of my sensitive kids—the history and the relationship between the Native Americans and English in this village was especially violent.

Additional resources: There are a lot of great resources on the HIstoric Deerfield page to peruse before visiting.

3. Two Florence Historic Walking Tours: The African-American Heritage Trail, The Women of Florence History Trail

Location: Florence, MA

Cost: Free! 

Best times to visit: These tours are outdoors and self-guided, so you are going to want a not-so-hot day with little chance of inclement weather. 

Plan ahead: You’ll want to research the walking tours ahead of time and download the maps. 

Recommended age: 4th grade+

Content areas: History of the Pioneer Valley, U.S. history, African-American history, women’s history

Additional educator thoughts: This is in our backyard! So much history. Both of these tours would be great for kids to develop inquiry-based learning projects, writing down questions as they walk. Then they could choose a question to begin researching and exploring. You can schedule a group tour with the David Ruggles Center.

Additional resources: The African-American Heritage Trail has videos for each stop for a mobile walking tour, a trail map for a self-guided walking tour. The Women’s History Tour includes a map as well.

Educational Road Trips

1. The Harriet Beecher Stowe Center and the Mark Twain House and Museum

Location: Hartford, CT

Cost: The Harriet Beecher Stowe Center: $10 for kids 6-16, free for kids under 6, $20 for adults. The Mark Twain House Tour: $21/adults, $11 kids 6-16, kids under 6 are free. Mark Twain Living History Tour: $26/adults, $18/kids 1-16. 

Best times to visit: Plan ahead and book your tickets! They are open on certain days and take reservations.

Plan ahead: Both are still operating at limited capacity, Fridays-Mondays. Be sure to check out their websites and book your ticket ahead of time.

Content areas: Literature, history of the area, U.S. history, social justice, women’s history

Additional educator thoughts: 2 great pieces of history to visit, 1 place to park! We’d recommend researching and creating a bit of a reading list ahead of time (or picking just one book!) for your kids, depending on their age. 

Additional resources: Read more about the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center here, while Mark Twain House has a robust website of resources here and a digital tour here.

2. Old Sturbridge Village

Location: Sturbridge, MA

Cost: $28/adults, $14/kids 4-17, 3 and under are free.

Best times to visit: They are only open Wednesdays-Sundays. 

Plan ahead: Make sure to reserve tickets ahead of time. And they are open rain or shine, so you might want to pack a poncho. Visit the FAQs for more planning ahead.

Content areas: history of the area, U.S. history

Additional educator thoughts: Many schools in the area visit on field trips. Talk to your child ahead of time to see what they have already experienced or what they want to revisit, then build on those curiosities. This would be another opportunity to bring a pad of paper to jot down curiosities, then build an inquiry-based project based on one of those questions. If you did some of the suggested field trips and walking tours in Florence, it would be really interesting to think about comparing life in the 2 regions.

Additional resources: See the link above.

Educational Field Trips for Rainy Days

  1. The Emily Dickinson Museum

Location: Amherst, MA (online)

Cost: Free (to visit virtually)

Best times to visit: Anytime because it’s virtual

Plan ahead: Check out the thoughtful syllabus

Recommended age: Tweens and up (though you know your kid, some youngsters would love this!)

Content area: History of the Pioneer Valley, English/language arts, women’s history 

Additional educator thoughts: This could be a great way to tee up a physical visit once the museum opens in person in March of 2022. The virtual resources allow for exploration of the 2 houses at the museum and could spur further reading, writing, and digging into local history for your child.

Additional resources: This is a list of rainy day poems for kids that you can explore with your little!

2. The Beneski Museum of Natural History

Location: Amherst, MA

Cost: Free!

Best times to visit: Online as of now (but they will hopefully open soon)

Plan ahead: The museum is designed for college students so know you are going to be doing a lot of parental guidance once inside if you have a curious toddler. There are a few elements you can touch (including a giant dinosaur footprint in the floor), but most of the items are hands-off and a bit delicate.

Recommended age: 2-99 (who doesn’t love dinosaurs?)

Content areas: Geology, history of the Pioneer Valley, paleontology

Additional educator thoughts: A giant collection of dinosaur footprints? Yes, please! It is a cool place to have kids do some sketching and labeling in a science journal, but know that only pencils are allowed in the museum.

Additional resources: The American Museum of Natural History has some top-notch educator resources and lessons that are caregiver-friendly. Find those educational resources here.

And a few more ideas for rainy-day educational activities:

Check out a private pottery lesson at Cycle Pottery in Florence

Pick up some art-to-go and browse for books at High Five Books and Art Always (and grab a popsicle from Crooked Stick Pops!)

Make an appointment for some meals-to-go at Atkins Savory Suppers

Sign up for some private teaching and math or reading fun at The Community Classroom

Join The Community Classroom’s Reading Group in July

Join The Community Classroom’s Digital Art Camp in August

Explore this list of outdoor math games or this list of indoor math board games

 

 

Photo of girl walking across a bridge by Morgan David de Lossy on Unsplash

Photo of family of 3 by Rajesh Rajput on Unsplash

Photo of car by Brian Erickson on Unsplash

Photo of dinosaurs by Katie Smith on Unsplash

Photo by Rhendi Rukmana on Unsplash

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