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Going Beyond the Park: 4 Places You Can Leverage in Your Classroom to Increase Engagement

The main purpose of education is to prepare students for life beyond school. And in today’s world, practical skills and self-awareness have become valuable currency. One of the best ways to help students grow more world-ready is by leveraging learning opportunities in settings outside the physical classroom, in a PBL arrangement. Learning on the field, such as in an interactive park, keeps students engaged and offers a wealth of teaching opportunities for the teacher. Parks, as well as other educational destinations, offer educational tours and even provide teachers with resources for on-site discussions. So get in touch and set up a visit to the following places:

Farms and ranches

There are about 2 million farms across the country, so your options are endless. A visit may be one of the best ways to teach students about biology, biodiversity, and animal life cycles. It allows them to understand how agriculture plays a key role in keeping society running, providing us with food and other produce. Farms and ranches also offer the unique chance for students to get up close and interact with animals like horses, goats, cows, llamas, and many others. This interaction can foster compassion and empathy for animals, as well as teach children to treat those who are different from them with kindness. The activities in farms and ranches vary from season to season. In the colder months, for example, farms may not be actively growing plants and other vegetation. But no matter which season you choose to go, there will always be something new to learn for students.

Vineyards

Since the first vineyard in the U.S. was established in the 1830s, several others have also opened and even become institutions themselves—like the popular Napa Valley region in California. These days, you’ll see people starting their own vineyards for both business and leisure, and you can partner up with them. A vineyard opens up opportunities for students to see how grapes are cultivated, harvested, and then processed to become wine. Additionally, you can have a vineyard owner talk to students about starting and running a vineyard. They can also discuss vineyard staples like trellising, irrigation, vine cuttings, and bottling. There are several vineyards, like Martha’s Vineyard, that offer walkthroughs, treks, and other student-friendly activities. Visit their websites to see the activities they have lined up, and shoot them a message to find out when the best time to visit is. Remember: it's important to coordinate your visits with the vineyard owners and ensure that the vineyard you're visiting is student-friendly!

Local factories

Trips to local factories are important to help students understand the process of manufacturing, and to teach them that everything that they see comes from raw materials. This gives them an appreciation for the things they own and consume. Factory staff prepare for the educational visits, and are more than happy to entertain questions from the students and explain the processes to them. Encourage students to ask questions and interact with factory staff. This helps them develop their communication skills, and learn about specific trades as well. From sweets company Abdallah Candy, to music kits manufacturer Musicmakers, there’s an array of local factories that offer tours that you can choose from based on your location and the subject matter you're tackling.

Aquariums

A visit to an aquarium may be the closest thing your classroom can get to being underwater. Teaching students about marine life may be tricky, especially in Minnesota and landlocked areas where there’s limited access to bodies of water. Aquariums can be very stimulating for young minds, helping them improve their creativity and imagination. A glimpse of life underwater may be the catalyst for children to develop an interest in exploration and discovering new things. Studies have even shown that aquariums can help improve one’s well-being and promote relaxation. Since two-thirds of the planet is covered by water, there is so much to learn. To make the most out of your trip, you can collect and study the reference materials provided by the aquarium before you go. This way, you can point out fishes and other creatures easily. Learning outside the classroom gives both students and teachers a new perspective, offering fresh ideas and fun and interactive educational experiences.

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