Field Trips That Don’t Match Your Curriculum

by Jimmie Lanley on March 14, 2011

Burkle Estate slave haven

Slave Haven or Burkle Estate

It doesn’t matter if field trips don’t match perfectly with what you’re studying. In fact, there are advantages of a museum visit long after or even before you’ve studied the topic.


For example, it has been some time ago since we studied the Underground Railroad. But our recent field trip to Slave Haven Museum was a perfect chance to review what we learned.

escaping slave at Burkle Estate

About Slave Haven

German immigrant Jacob Burkle ran the stockyards close to the Mississippi River in what was, at that time, outside of the Memphis city limits. According to folklore, his home was a stop on the Underground Railroad.

Now the Burkle home is a museum that educates visitors about slavery, the abolition movement, and, of course, the path to freedom via the Underground Railroad.

A highlight was touring the cellar where escaping slaves probably rested and refueled for their long journey northward. Unfortunately, photographs were not allowed inside the museum.

Because another group was on the tour when we arrived, we had to wait outside for about 40 minutes to get our turn. But the weather was lovely, and the wait turned out to be well worth it. Our guide (Valencia or Malencia — there was some dispute about her name later) was excellent. She captured the attention of the whole group and patiently answered our questions. I do recommend the Burkle Estate museum for a homeschool field trip (grades four and up).

A museum visit long after your study brings those dormant facts back up to the surface and cements them into the memory once again.

A wonderful took for getting the most out of a “REVIEW” field trip is a K-W-L Chart. I had Sprite fill one out and add it to her history notebook. Before we even left home for the museum, she was beginning to review what we had learned.

You might regret that a field trip didn’t mesh perfectly with the timing of your curriculum, but allowing distance between the study and the field trip is often beneficial for learning. The brain needs time for that new information to simmer. Too much information on one topic can lead to overload where the brain just stops taking in new facts. So don’t worry about a field trip long after a topic of study. It will serve as a great review.


Sprite reading Burkle Estate marker

Sprite Reading the TN State Marker at Burkle Estate

Even if we hadn’t already studied the Underground Railroad, the field trip would be an anchor for attaching that learning onto once we reached it in our curriculum. In education circles, this teaching strategy is called activating prior knowledge. As we read our living books, I would be quick to mention the things we saw at the museum which parallel or illustrate what we read.

slave haven sign

Slave Haven

The bottom line is that field trips work no matter where they fit into the curriculum. First hand experiences that come from field trips are beneficial whether before or after formal study.

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