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Far-Out Field Trips
During each summer in Lander, Wyoming, 50 students in Grades 6-8 participate in weekly project-based field trips designed to provide extra learning opportunities focused on Wyoming history. The field trips include hands-on activities that incorporate the core areas of social studies, science, and language arts.
After a field trip has been planned, staff at the program order a correlating "discovery trunk" from the Wyoming State Museum that contains authentic items relating to that week's field trip. On the field trip, a local expert makes a presentation to the students. Each of these activities helps engage the students by making the field trip a hands-on experience through writing, visualization, touching, and connecting the experience to their prior knowledge. After the students return from the field trip, they engage in a project that may include but is not limited to art, writing, sewing, or cooking. Students also write thank-you notes to the organization that sponsored the trip.
For example, the students visited the National Historic Trails Interpretive Center, operated by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. The center focuses specifically on America's westward expansion through the Oregon, California, Morman, and Pony Express trails. Before the field trip occurred, students opened the discovery trunk and found specific items from that time period, such as arrowheads, a cast-iron skillet, and a Pony Express Bible. At the museum, students visited a series of interactive and multimedia exhibits and listened to a presentation from an expert. Following the field trip, students engaged in a craft and wrote a thank-you note to the sponsoring organization.
In past years, students have created a Wyoming historic quilt. Each square represented a field trip and specific area in Wyoming. The children drew and painted the squares, then sewed and pieced the squares together to make a completed quilt.
Besides engaging the students and promoting social capital, these field trips also engage the entire community by inviting experts to interact with the students and share their knowledge.