Excursions are an ideal way to involve your preschool children in the world around them, while at the same time providing a way for the local community to participate in the life of the Preschool.
There are so many benefits to getting out and about exploring with the children. The ability to experience the outside world in a safe environment, with their peers, is very exciting for the children. The sights, sounds and feel of being out in the big world – especially when they’re experiencing something for the first time that they’ve heard about in class – provides an enriching learning experience for the children first hand.
Developing links with businesses and local services is extremely educational for the children, as they are able to explore potential career paths with the grown-ups who are fulfilling these roles.
In my experience, there is an exceptional amount of goodwill in the community for helping out. This can range from the local police or the fire department bringing out their equipment for a demonstration or letting the children play on the truck, to the local bakery giving each child a fresh bread roll to eat on an excursion to the local strip mall.
Through building links with the local community and businesses, it opens the door for partnerships in the future – for example, becoming prospective sponsors for a working bee or providing food or volunteers for a fund raising event.
In my very long career as a teacher, we have visited a variety of localities with the children. Almost invariably they have loved it – I think that as long as a learning objective and interest is pursued, the destination itself is not as important as the experience we give the children.
How to come up with ideas of where to go for an excursion
My favorite excursions have been within the local area; sometimes, excursion ideas are derived from the children’s specific interests. For example, if they are particularly interested in animals, the obvious place might be a petting zoo or a farm.
To think of specific ideas of where to go, I like to look in the local newspaper, especially for open days, where I know bringing a group of children will not be too disruptive to business.
This also allows us to explore places which otherwise we might not be able. Don’t limit your search to your specific area, but also consider surrounding areas – particularly if there is an industry that is different to your local area and may be interesting to the children.
Another valuable resource is the immediate preschool community; I have led many successful excursions to the workplaces of parents of preschool children. We’ve been to dentists, retirement villages and a number of other places you wouldn’t normally take a preschool class, but we’ve always had a good time and learned much from the experience.
So what have been my favorite places to take children on an excursion?
I recently took one of my classes to the butcher’s shop on a walking excursion, to see sausages being made. It was truly fascinating for the children, who were very entertained watching the process.
We then brought some of the fresh sausages back to the preschool to cook on a BBQ.
It’s a seemingly simple excursion, but along the way we were able to teach the children about many important aspects of life; we learned about the community, road safety, buying and selling, money handling, how sausages are made (rather than just the finished product), hygiene and food handling.
Another favorite was our excursion to the local Telephone Exchange on an open day. These may not be around for very long, so get in while you can!
The excursion was fascinating, even for the teachers; the tour guide was very knowledgeable, friendly and enthusiastic.
The preschool children were able to learn what happens behind the scenes when you make a telephone call.
They were amazed at seeing all the wires and equipment that deliver modern communications and the noise of a call going through to a recipient.
They could see all the different styles of telephones on display and felt a sense of community when they realized that the wires inside the exchange were all going to people’s homes and offices, connecting them all to one another.
The classic places to take classes are the more traditional businesses, like florists (where they can learn about growing and arranging flowers, as well as the role of bees in agriculture), bakers (where they can experience how their favorite staples are made) and pet stores (because all kids love to pat a newborn puppy!).
Another favorite of mine is the local hardware store, where the children can learn about construction and see how nuts and bolts work to hold things together. Often, these visits inspire children to think about pursuing a career in one of these areas.
The local fire, ambulance and police stations always provide insightful excursions. Of course, you just need to remember that they may need to leave at a moment’s notice if an emergency occurs.
I’ve always found the officers to be extremely kind and generous with their time for the children; probably because they remember fondly their own visit to the local station when they were young!
I like to brainstorm ideas to create excursions to more obscure places, which most children wouldn’t have been to before.
For example, I like coin stores because it’s a great opportunity to talk about history and culture through the physical items in the store, which they can see and touch with their own hands.
Other great alternative stores are magic stores and antique stores – there’s always a lot of fun to be had there! Bulk produce stores, if available in your area, amaze the children with the size of 100 pound bags of food produce.
This is a simple one, but there are many basic concepts you can explain to children at your local shopping center; one of the main ones I use is riding the escalators, elevators and travelators and asking the children to figure out how they work. It really gets their imaginations going!
Local Landmarks and Culture:
Further to supporting the children experiencing their local community businesses and institutions, is to enrich their education by researching local sights of historical significance and build educational experiences around them.
For example, is there an old building in town with a particular historical significance? If so, they may be kind enough to provide a guide to explain its history to the children. Historical trusts and societies are always extremely passionate and keen to explain the history to the next generation.
It might not be a building; perhaps you could pick an iconic bridge somewhere in town and teach the children about it before going on an excursion to walk over the bridge. This makes the learning experience so much more tangible for the children, to understand what went into the construction of the bridge and then to feel it underneath their feet.
Other than landmarks, what local cultural activities are available? Perhaps you can meet with some local indigenous groups so they can explain their history and the old traditions of their cultures. This is always an extremely rewarding experience and helps the children understand their history in a more holistic manner.
Museums often provide historical and cultural programs aimed specifically for young children.
Restaurants are also a great way to experience other cultures; love for good food is universal. The children often enjoy trying new things, although they can approach new foods with some trepidation! It works really well to integrate a restaurant visit with your study of a particular country or culture.
At the same time, it can be a challenge to try using chopsticks to eat your food (whether in the restaurant or back in the classroom) – but it certainly gives them a healthy degree of respect for those who are able to do it.
If there are activities unique to your area (for example, hiking, bird watching, ice skating or swimming) these can be great options – but always ensure there’s something new to learn or a new place to go.
The central point of all these excursion ideas is using the journey to involve as many learnings as possible in the children’s day. Merely being outside in the world presents an educator with innumerable opportunities to explore, investigate and explain sights, sounds, tastes and concepts with the children.
That’s what I really love about excursions after all; every minute a new learning opportunity falls into your lap. If you’re aware and seeking out these opportunities, you can truly add another dimension to the learning experience for your children, as well as improving their confidence in what can seem like a big, scary world out there.