Getting the most out of field trips for home learners

Holding a tree frog in your hand, walking and talking with a hydrology expert about filtering dirty water through a series of ponds, picking pumpkins, watching Scrooge learn about the spirit of Christmas on the stage in front of you, binding your own book with a needle and thread, touching and playing with masks and instruments made of wood to learn how forests are used and protected around the world, or getting the Speaker of the House to welcome you in front of the whole state House of Representatives at the Capitol building? This is “school”? Well, yes, of course – it’s all par for the course for our home learners!

One of the amazing things about home learning is that families are much more able to arrange their schedules to involve educational visits and field trips to different locations. This is so empowering for families, and these excursions make a big difference in children’s educations. At DCS, we try to organize field trips or family workshops about twice a month on different days of the week, covering a wide range of subjects and concepts, and including different age groups. So far this year, we have had trips covering topics like agriculture, local history, performing arts, forestry (industry, biology, economy, sustainability), science, and civics. Before the end of the year, we’ll have trips and workshops covering genealogy, geology, gardening, engineering and world history. This is very satisfying information for those of us helping to guide our students’ learning, but for the kids, it’s all about higher levels of engagement. These trips and workshops are all about exposing them to interesting ideas, situations, and experiences, and what they are able to pick up to stimulate their curiosity for future learning and reinforce previous learning.

Research shows that exposure to enrichment experiences makes a huge difference in children’s engagement in learning, achievements, social success, self-esteem and future careers. This article shows that more exposure to innovation makes it more likely for people to become inventors. One study found that students who attended field trips to cultural institutions “demonstrated stronger critical thinking skills, displayed higher levels of tolerance, had more historical empathy and developed a taste for being a cultural consumer in the future.” Another study “found that, regardless of gender, ethnicity or socioeconomic status, youth who take educational trips have better grades (59 percent), higher graduation rates from high school (95 percent) and college (63 percent), and greater income (12 percent higher annually). In fact, 89 percent said educational trips had a positive, lasting impact on their education and career because the trips made them more engaged, intellectually curious and interested in and out of school.”

These are all good reasons to make sure that you take advantage of the many field trip opportunities offered through DCS (and arrange your own experiential learning visits with your family)! But how do you get the most learning out of the experiences? How do you make sure that your child(ren) are making connections, gaining insight, reinforcing knowledge, and then taking advantage of the curiosity the trip inspires to continue the learning afterwards?

Try some (or all) of these ideas to make the most of your field trips, and let us know if you have any ideas to add!

  1. Research the trip ahead of time. Get books about the topic from the library. Go online and look up the website of the place you will be visiting. Make a list of questions that you might find the answers to on the trip. Think about experiences you have had or projects you have done in the past that connect with this trip. Make a list of possible vocabulary words that might be used during the trip. Discuss concepts that will be covered during the trip. Prime the learning pump.
  2. Get help from your students in planning for the trip. Talk about departure, travel, and arrival times (estimating, measuring distances, time management). Discuss a budget and make a list of items that you will need to pack and bring. When appropriate, give students a sketchbook and pencil(s) to draw, sketch, or take notes and write questions during the visit.
  3. During the trip, it’s all about the engagement, the inspiration, the exposure to ideas and information, and the curiosity. Make sure kids are engaging with the tour, experience, or exhibit – when appropriate, ask them questions, give them tasks (like sketching in a notebook or doing a scavenger hunt), help them make connections with bigger questions and concepts. (Learn about concept-based teaching and learning here.) Take plenty of photos and maybe a few video clips so that kids can make a digital slideshow, video or presentation about the trip later. Every trip is as interesting and educational as you make it!
  4. After the trip, have your child review or evaluate the trip. Have them make some notes about what was great, how they could have been more engaged or behaved differently, and what they would like to see improved.

Here are more ideas to continue to extend learning after a field trip from Have fun! 

  • Have students share observations and reactions to field trip experiences.
  • Share notes or assignments students completed while on the field trip.
  • Create a display of materials developed or collected while on the field trip.
  • Develop a home museum that replicates and extends displays students observed on the field trip. For example, if the field trip involved an art museum, develop a classroom art museum containing student artwork.
  • Link field trip activities to multiple curricular areas. For example, students can develop vocabulary lists based on field trip observations; record field trip observations in a classroom journal; complete math problems related to actual field trip budget planning; etc.
  • Have students compose and send thank-you letters to the field trip site host, chaperones, school administrators and other persons that supported the field trip. Include favorite objects or special information learned during the field trip.
  • Create a short news report about what happened on the field trip. Publicize the trip via an article in your local newspaper, video or article on the school website, or trip presentation for parent’s night.


Winter Enrichment Course Enrollments Open!

Enrollments will open in the online enrollment system at 5:00 pm on Tuesday, Dec. 12 and the deadline for enrollments will be 12:00 pm (noon) on Monday, Dec. 18.

Please note that all class lists will be finalized with input from the Guides, so if you end up on a waiting list for a class that your child really wants or needs for some reason, please let your guide know and we will take this information into account when finalizing the class rosters by Tuesday, Dec. 19.

Use THIS LINK to enroll in enrichment courses starting at 5:00 pm on Dec. 12. In the system, you can sort classes by location (click OREGON in the Location filter to get a list of our class locations) or by day of the week using the Calendar view instead of the Session List view.

Click on a class name to see the course description and information about instructors and locations. Don’t worry about being the first to enroll, we really don’t anticipate having any problems getting students into all or most of their enrichment class choices, and we can be flexible with some numbers. All class lists will be finalized on Monday, December 18 and Tuesday, December 19, with input and confirmation from the DCS Guides.

Below is the finalized schedule grid / list of winter enrichment classes. We have made several schedule changes in the past week, so please note that the dates and times in this grid and in the system are the true days and times of all the classes. (The other lists with course descriptions, etc. may have outdated information.)

Dallas Schools Lockdown

We learned from the assistant superintendent of Dallas Public Schools at about noon today (Wednesday, Oct. 18) that all of the Dallas schools were on lockdown because of a specific threat from one student to another student. The assistant superintendent said that we should lock our doors but reassured us that it was a very specific threat, and that we could continue to release kids to parents and go in and out of the school. The DCS Middle School Guides brought their students to our building, and we arranged car rides for those going back to the North Campus building, where the doors were locked after students and teachers entered for the 12:30 class.

Some parents called or posted on Facebook to ask about why they didn’t hear from us during the lockdown. Although we very much understand parents’ concern, our first priority during any “emergency” situation is the safety of the students and staff, and all the organization and processes that entails. While we are focused on doing what needs to be done to that end, it is hard for any staff to break away to send out emails or update our school community Facebook page. If our school is in a lockdown, then normally, it would usually not be advisable for parents to come pick up their children, or for families to be going in and out of the school. As many of you know, we follow the Dallas School District policies, but the Board and the staff are currently working on updating our own school policies, and we will be communicating our revised lockdown and emergency policy after next week’s staff meeting.

In any case, all is now well – the lockdown was called off at around 1:00 or so, and we don’t have any further details to share, though it will probably be in the morning papers! Thank you for your concern and communications, and rest assured, student safety and well-being is our top priority at all times, but especially during a lockdown or emergency situation!

Online Enrollment for Enrichment Classes now open until Sept. 11

Dear DCS Parents,

Online enrollment for DCS Enrichment Classes is now open until 4:00 pm on Monday, September 11. Please read the below information and instructions carefully before logging in to Course Storm, the online enrollment system.

We have approved every student for their top three choices of Enrichment Classes (except for a few on the waiting list for Yoga, K-3 on Mondays). There was some confusion about student’s top three choices and what they would be enrolled in and we apologize for that confusion. Several of the Guides informed me that most parents where hoping their student’s would be enrolled in their top three choices, so where it was possible, that is what we did. We also gave priority to the Maple and Cedar Track families, with input from the Guides.

You should have received a confirmation email from Dallas Community School with confirmation of each class in which you have been enrolled. There may have been one or two mistakes or omissions, and if you did NOT want your child to be enrolled in all three classes, you will have to email me directly to let me know which classes to cancel at Unfortunately, because of the way Course Storm is set up, they do not allow students to cancel their own classes in the system.

Now that we have entered every student into their top three Enrichment Class choices, we will be opening up online enrollment for the remaining spots in all classes. Although most registrations at this point will be first-come, first-served, the actual FINAL confirmation of students enrolled in all classes is subject to the approval of the Guides. You should receive a second confirmation email on Monday or Tuesday of next week (Sept. 11 or 12) with the FINAL confirmation of your class choices, once all the changes, cancellations, additions and waiting list adjustments have shaken out. During this weekend, people can enroll and unenroll, change their minds, and correct mistakes in enrollment (those will probably be mine!) so don’t hesitate to sign up even if a class appears to be full – there may be changes that allow students on the waiting list to get into a class at the last minute!

Payment: All materials fees will be deducted from families’ Allotment Funds (as approved by your Guide). If you got a registration confirmation email saying “this registration is pending receipt of check payment sent to Dallas Community School”, you can happily ignore it – we will take care of the payment directly UNLESS you prefer to pay by check or another way other than allotment funds, in which case, please let Andrea Wilcoxon know! If you will be doing more online enrollments in Enrichment Classes, please note: When the online payment information comes up, DO NOT ENTER YOUR CREDIT CARD INFORMATION. Select “Pay By Check” and then “Submit Registration”. You will not have to pay by check but this allows us to enter the payment in our own system more easily!

For full instructions and links to the system, please see our Online Enrollment document. PLEASE NOTE: If your phone number isn’t in the system for some reason, try entering 10 zeros (0000000000) which was the default number in the system. 

We hope that your online enrollment goes smoothly, and thank you in advance for your understanding with the complexities of this enrollment process! These online course enrollment systems are generally made for parents to enroll students in classes themselves on a first-come, first-served basis, and not for staff to enroll many students in many classes themselves, as we have done, as we are trying to make it as fair and as smooth as possible for everyone based on the Track System, and the unique needs and processes we have at DCS!

I will be available this weekend and on Monday for help enrolling in Enrichment Classes as needed, so don’t hesitate to email or call me (contact information below). By the end of the day on Monday, Sept. 11, we hope to have the class lists mostly finalized. If there are classes with spots still available, we will send out reminder notices to encourage full enrollment and participation.

Thanks again, and happy enrolling!

Monica McQueen, Communications and Enrichment Coordinator

Dallas Community School

Cell: (971) 301-4124

Work (at DCS): (503) 420-4360