Last week the YMCA Schools Out program offered “Vacation Days” programing for kids on school break. Field trips included a trip to the zoo, a baseball game and to a local nature preserve.
A week later in our regular after school program, I was so excited when a couple of the boys were reflecting on the field trips of last week and exclaimed gleefully “the best was when we went for the hike and got to run around and climb trees! It was so awesome!”
This field trip went well because we allowed them to discover for themselves in a safe but free environment of the woods.
Here are some tips to make these kids of programs successful:
Set Clear Boundaries Although we allowed for freedom, it was with some guidance and supervision. When these guidelines were outlined with clear expectations, it gave us a teachers the confidence to give the student participants more freedom.
Allow Time for Exploration We set out on a 45 minute hike but had 2 hours of time to meander. This meant that we were not crunched, or watching the clock, instead we were able to enjoy out time on the hike.
Teach with Wonder Everyone was overjoyed when I pointed out a birds nest with total excitement and fascination. I experienced the joy and wonder of discovery and my enthusiasm infected those around me. All the teachers did this and it opened the door for the children to be in awe of their discoveries.
Don’t Know Everything When kids ask questions be a guide, not a know it all. Probably the single best way to get kids more interested in something is to tell them you don’t know and then assist in figuring out the problem. Through this process students are given permission to discover and share tools for how to solve problems.
Joy, excitement, and enthusiasm, are infectious and sharing this with kids and families can plant the seeds of a lifetime of hunger for inquiry and discovery.
Even after a long week of “Vacation Days” challenged by rain and lots of kids, we still managed to “pull off” the last field trip. And because we used some of these tools, the kids had the best time.
Hats off to more time outside, discovering the wonder of nature.
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