Using Excursions to Teach History
It is possible to use a series of excursions as a basis for a unit of study on a particular theme or topic, covering a range of learning objectives. These can be complemented with additional activities, either initiated by the parent or generated spontaneously from the children. Such activities depend on the nature of the topic, but usually always involve using and further developing the children's language skills. This may include recording information, opinions or feelings, creative writing, conversation, discussion or re-telling others about their experiences. Other spin-off activities from excursions can include art and craft work, projects, scientific experiments and mathematical investigations.
Having a plan for a series of excursions can be as simple or complex as you wish. A list of objectives will help to guide you in your choices of people and places to visit, and the type of activities you will want the children to be exposed to.
Excursions offer an excellent alternative to learning from books. They get children out into the community, where they can observe people at work and leisure, and hopefully have the opportunity to participate. They break the monotony of home life, for both children and parents. Although they can be exhausting if overdone, one excursion each week or fortnight is easily manageable. Excursions can also be combined with other families. Bear in mind, however, that your children will prefer to play with their friends, and will be distracted by this need. It may be hard to encourage them to focus on the learning opportunities presented! Include opportunities for free play before or after the educational part of the activity.
Themes that lend themselves readily to an excursion based learning approach include history, geology, environmental studies, health issues, art, craft, cultural studies, employment, etc.
Allow yourself all day, especially if you are travelling some distance. Try to break the day up, offering your children a range of activities. Too much standing around, looking, reading and discussing can tire children very quickly. They will lose interest and learn to dread excursions. Visit a playground, go for a walk, take a picnic lunch. Allow the children adequate time to run around and stretch their legs. Morning and afternoon tea offer excellent opportunities to pause, or change the scenery. If you are in a building you have paid to enter, ask for a pass out, and come back later.
Where possible seek out places which offer 'hands-on' learning opportunities for children. Many places now do this, either as displays the children can manipulate to achieve an effect or obtain information, or actually participate in a skill, such as making pasties in a bakery, using an antique mail exchange and phone in a communications museum, testing water samples for Landcare.
The following carefully sequenced excursion plan was aimed at children eight to twelve years. It was designed to introduce the children to South Australian history.
FOCUS ON SOUTH AUSTRALIAN HISTORY
Areas of the (then) SA Curriculum to explore:
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