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.

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Sally March 14, 2011 at 1:14 pm

Wow, Jimmie, this is an awesome spot! Field trips are the best!
As I was reading the first lines of the post, I thought to myself: How is this woman in my head?!?! I was just the other night trying to manipulate things so that all our in-house learning can coordinate with trips we are taking in the next 6 months and here you come, saying that it doesn’t matter! Hahaha! That they will learn no matter what! Thanks, Jimmie, for getting me back in line — your blog is always awesome!


Tricia March 14, 2011 at 4:35 pm

I love this! What fun. You are inspiring me. Plus, with nice weather, it’s great to get out and enjoy.


Bev Goodrich March 14, 2011 at 4:38 pm

Hi Jimmie – If you get over to Nashville, check out the Parthenon. We visited it last week and it was well worth the $4 kid and $6 adult admission fee. The kids fussed about “school” on vacation, but really enjoyed it once they got there.


Lorus March 14, 2011 at 4:39 pm

We love field trips! I am always amazed at the things the kids learn and how it sticks! We take a trip when we have the opportunity and sometimes cover multiple subjects in one trip. I’ve learned to not worry about trying to cover the correct topics before or after the trip, and notice that they often ‘teach themselves’ more about the interesting things we encounter.


lee March 14, 2011 at 6:14 pm

We did that a lot while we were in the States. We had finished our studies of early American history several months before, but since we were around Philadelphia we were able to visit lots of historic sites. I figured it’s all education no matter what order it comes in.


Maureen March 14, 2011 at 9:00 pm

Our field trips rarely match what we are studying. I usually take them because there is a special opportunity, or because we need a break from the routine.


drue March 15, 2011 at 5:56 am

Nice new blog layout, Jimmie. Very springy, free, and alive. Great reminder on field trips, too. We are off to Carcassonne, Barcelona, Nimes (pont du gard), Pisa, and Napoli/Pompeii this weekend and next week so I am hoping all that culture and the occasional Picasso museum will do its own teaching. Actually, field trips sometimes reinforce that I have “taught” or exposed the kids to much more than I thought I had. Pont du Gard is not only a totally awesome Roman aquaduct but also a study in architecture which we snuck into the schedule last month. And who doesn’t love Gaudi, Picasso, and some petrified humans at Pompeii. The later which tie in nicely to the mummies we just saw in Egypt. Yeah, I guess our field trips lately have been monumental.


Nadene March 15, 2011 at 5:58 am

We travelled around South Africa a few times during our 18 months on the road. We visited several museums months after our book studies. It was so precious to see our youngest children squeal with delight to find something on display that had been discussed when we had read the work earlier.

My youngest said, “So it’s really real, Mom!” and it gave her such joy to realise we were reading about the “real deal”. This kind of connection between learning and experience is priceless!


Alex March 15, 2011 at 6:25 am

There are a few places where we live related to the Underground Railroad (SW Ontario, Canada). It’s always interesting to visit these.
I went over to the “Live the Adventure” blog, thanks for mentioning it! Great blog, I added the button to mine.
I also wanted to say, I love your new look! Very spring-like!


ByGProductions March 15, 2011 at 1:27 pm

Great post, excellent words of wisdom. Have linked this post to my fb page Homeschool Preschool thru High School.


Tara March 15, 2011 at 10:36 pm

Great post! We actually found ourselves in San Antonio with a chance to visit the Alamo a few weeks ago. It just so happened that we were coming up on a study of the Alamo a few weeks later. It was a great way to review what we had actually seen as we walked through the Alamo a few weeks prior.


Christina March 20, 2011 at 8:29 am

I always love reading your posts. You have such great and creative ideas! I’m thinking about the future and schooling. My son’s only still a toddler, but I suppose before long I’ll need to have some ideas about whether I want to home school or do try the Chinese kindergarten, etc. Thanks for always inspiring.


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