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Planning Your Visit to a State Park
With advance scheduling and knowledge of your specific curriculum goals and objectives, our park staff can create field trip programs tailored to your needs.
Programs may be subject specific, addressing a particular aspect of Arkansas history or life science, or, we may work with you to design a cross-curriculum field trip covering grade-specific standards for science, mathematics, language and literacy, history, social studies, art, physical education, and health.
Your students’ classroom lessons can come to life when they cruise a cypress swamp, walk through a succession forest, smell the odor of black powder, see our state symbols in their natural settings, and marvel at artifacts which reveal secrets of Arkansas's fascinating past. Each park has a unique story to tell through engaging, enriching activities.
Prior to your students’ trip, we recommend that the lead teacher makes a preview visit to the park. This visit fosters contact with park personnel and allows you to become familiar with locations of restrooms, water fountains, exhibits, classrooms, audiovisual services, trails, and the accessibility of the site. One of the best ways to become familiar with a park and its program capability is through a teacher professional development workshop. Check our online Calendar of Events or contact your nearby parks or museums to see if they offer one- or two-day workshops in summer.
Teachers' Checklist to Prepare for Your Field Trip
- Visit the park or museum before your trip with colleagues and chaperones. (Teachers are always admitted free.)
- Identify parking, lunch area and restroom locations.
- Ask for park specific information.Many parks offer an educator's guide with a listing of established, curriculum-based programs.
- Ask for a free teacher's guide.
- Attend one of our teacher professional development workshops.
- Explore the exhibits and outdoor areas you plan to visit.
- Identify activities relating to your classroom studies.
So that your students can fully experience and enjoy their park experience, help provide them with information about basic needs to set their minds at ease:
- The time and date of the trip
- Point of departure
- General overview of the day's schedule
- Necessary expenses
- Lunch plan
- Appropriate dress (consider the weather)
- Parental permission forms as required by the school
- Rules (of teacher and of the park)
- Any necessary supplies (camera, notebook, pencils, art supplies, etc.)
- Special assignments/worksheets
- Schedule of available free time
- Time they will return to school
Prepare Your Students for Learning
Prepare your students for an exciting educational experience by using pre-trip classroom activities relating to your planned park programs. Park staff can help you select appropriate pre-trip activities, and may also have post-trip activities for your use in the classroom when you return. As scheduling allows, park staff may be available for outreach visits to your classroom, as a complementary activity with your field trip (note: staff availability and outreach capacity are limited). See below for some classroom activity ideas.
- Map reading skills: Using Arkansas maps, have them calculate distance, direction and time of travel. Give several average speeds, or compare two routes, have them calculate the differences in travel time.
- Reinforce their knowledge of the Arkansas natural divisions (eco-regions) by having them identify the natural division in which the school is located and those they will travel through. Have them list characteristics of each natural division to observe from the bus. Identify the natural division in which the park or museum is located and list characteristics to compare while in the state park or state museum.
- Introduce observational skills. Let students describe ordinary objects in detail, like a paper clip, paintbrush, clothespin, or comb to their classmates. Note that the details of exhibits are important and your students will be able to learn about the exhibit through several methods in addition to observing and reading: audio, touch (caution to touch only where appropriate), audio-visual programs, and through our tour guides and park interpreters.
- Make students "inspectors" or “journalists” of one aspect of the topic they will study at the state park or museum. Have them report their findings to the class.
- Create teams and assign each team a subject area related to the field trip topic to research (e.g. government, art, religion, science, environment, etc.). From that research have them develop questions to ask the park staff, then have each team give a report to the class in the week following the field trip.
- Give students both open-ended and short answer question sheets that encourage them to gather information throughout the visit.
- Create worksheets with partial drawings of objects found in the exhibitions. Let students complete the drawings based on their observations at the park or museum.
- Come up with a focus that is intriguing to your students, such as: Survival, Status, Hunter and Hunted, Starting Over, Birth and Death. Have students write about or sketch something from the exhibits or park programs that connects to their specific focus, perhaps challenging them to identify at least one fact and at least one emotion.
- Create a vocabulary list based on the park/museum experience and your objective/goal for the field trip. Ask the park interpreter for suggestions from words and terms they will be using in your programs or that students will find in the exhibits.
On the Bus or Car Ride There: ?
- Create simple drawings of things kids will see on the way to the park or museum, such as landmarks, famous buildings, or statues. Have students circle the items as they see them.
- Ask students to write down five ways they see that people have changed the environment.
- Have students list the characteristics of natural divisions they pass through.
- Have the students make a map in class, then note the name and population of each town they pass through.
We hope that these trip-planning ideas and pre- or post-trip activities for students will assist you in field trip preparation for your class. Contact the park if you need more assistance.