f you think about how you first became interested in the field that you chose to make your career, chances are, you first got interested in it outside of the classroom.
As a youth, you probably read about it in books or magazines, spoke to someone from that field or visited an exhibit at a local museum or a science center that may have lighted the first spark that eventually became your career.
Considerable learning happens outside the classroom. There is no dearth of inquisitiveness in children and classrooms may never be adequate to satisfy all of their learning needs. This is where Homeschooling as a supplement for classroom learning comes in.
Classrooms are bound by curriculum. Although the curriculum is standardized across the country and is based on extensive research on what is the common core essential at every age and grade, there is always significant scope for age-appropriate learning that could happen beyond what’s dictated by the curriculum.
In such cases, the learning is dictated by the child rather than the curriculum, making the learning process more interest-driven rather than regimen-driven.
So when my 5 year old asked how a Bumblebee was different from a Honeybee, and on a different occasion, if all Tarantulas were venomous and dangerous to humans, it was time to get the cue to embark on our next Homeschool Field Trip “Xploring Xtreme Bugs”.
The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA had an exciting exhibit called “Xtreme Bugs”. A wonderful exhibit for the lovers of all things creepy and crawly.
We set out early in the day, so we could go through the 2 hour drive to reach the academy closer to its opening time, to let us spend more time. DD chose to visit the Xtreme Bugs exhibit straight up as soon as we got our tickets. And she wouldn’t be disappointed on what followed.
The next 3 hours were an intense exploration of bugs.
We were greeted by a life-sized Cicada and a Katydid, a giant Vinegaroon, a Monarch Butterfly and then the big question we were seeking an answer to – the Bumblebee and the Honeybee. Both life sized, large enough to let DD meticulously explore the various parts of the insect and read descriptions to get the answers she needed.
The exhibits were created with thoughtful precision. It was enough to get someone as little as DD to get excited, with the giant figures giving insights into never-before-seen aspects of a bug’s body structure, and the descriptions simple enough for her to read and comprehend, while I supplemented with additional explanation and clarifications to her questions.
As we walked past feeling like little Lilliputians beside the big bugs, DD got glued to a Myth or Fact touchscreen game.
Like the good old tests in a traditional classroom, the game not only refreshed the facts she read in the preceding exhibits, but there was also scope for informed guesses which added to the fun. I chipped in with more details on every Myth or Fact she uncovered in the game, adding further enrichment into answering all her questions about bugs.
After she satiated herself playing the Myth or Fact game, there was yet another fun game exhibit.
This time, it was a giant scenic board emulating a mix of habitats – everything from crops and flowers, to burrows and rainforest floors.
DD had to pickup large pieces of insect magnets and match them with the correct habitat.
There were two clues – one was the background of the insect magnet itself which gave an indication of the type of natural habit, second was a description at the back of the magnet which could be read, understood and then matched with the habitat board.
Very soon DD had already spent nearly a half-day having lots of fun and learning in the process. She had by then learnt the answer to her Bumblebee vs Honeybee question, and that Orchid Mantises camouflaged like beautiful white flowers, that Madagascar Cockroaches could hold their breath for 30 minutes under water, and that Vinegaroons discharge an offensive liquid when attacked which contains acetic acid that smells like household vinegar (and that’s why the name).
Minutes past this exhibit there was a real living specimen of a Tarantula and the volunteer at the exhibit was patient enough to explain everything about the Tarantulas – including DD’s question if all of them were venomous. Apparently, they are, but most of them don’t cause long lasting harm to humans.
DD was exhilarated as she went past the Xtreme Bugs into the rest of the regular features at the museum including her favorite Dinosaur hall with a Fossil dig.
There was a lot of fun, and a lot of non-traditional learning. The exhibits appealed to her tactile interests and helped her to touch and explore answers in a very hands-on manner.
She wouldn’t probably differentiate it enough to say if it was a fun trip or a learning trip – for, while you extend learning beyond the classrooms and dive into rabbit holes driven by the child’s interests, the distance between fun and learning often become diminished.
So while you help your child learn and practice the classroom curriculum, always keep an open eye to look for those unique little interests your child may have. Consider Homeschooling Field trips that could encourage their inquisitiveness while rendering an enriching and fun-filled learning experience.
Here are some Science-themed T-Shirts from Oviyam to add even more fun to your next Homeschool Field Trip.
While we are on the topic of homeschooling, here are some good homeschooling resources that might come in handy.