How to Find Field Trip Opportunities in Your Own Back Yard

Macy's Poster with field trip announcement

Editor’s Note: Planning field trips can be daunting. Join us during the next two days as we take a look at finding fun, engaging opportunities for your students. Enjoy!

If planning an amazing field trip in a town with only 2,700 people seems impossible, think again.

Before you go looking elsewhere for the perfect field trip, consider looking locally.

I unearthed a gem right around the corner from our school. In my tiny town, a talented team of artists design and build the floats and balloons for the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. The artists brainstorm, plan, sketch, build, sculpt, sew and paint within walking distance of my school!

Macy's Parade Poster

I didn’t know any of this magic was happening under my nose until I participated in the town’s centennial parade. The teachers were asked to create a float and as the art teacher, direction and planning fell to me. Our float won first place in the parade contest which was terrific, but far from the best part.

People from Macy’s came to see the parade and admired our float. They approached me and proposed a visit to their studio for my students where the kids would get a sneak peek at the floats before the next parade and meet the artists that created them.

Macy's Poster with field trip announcement

Now, the trip is an annual excursion for my third graders. Each year the set designers and artists walk my students through the process of digital sketching and clay modeling. Then, the students get to see the full-scale floats and balloons. Check out the photo below of my students getting a sneak peek of one of the confetti cannons!

students getting showered in confetti
image courtesy of The Wall Street Journal

Students learn about real life art careers that exist in their town and engage actual artists in discussion. It’s an incredibly authentic experience.

So, what have I learned about field trips?

1. Be open to interesting opportunities in your community.

Even if something takes extra work and you have no earthly idea how you’ll accomplish it at first, consider participating anyway.

If I had said no to the float building – and believe me that was a consideration – I would have never made this awesome connection. It was nuts but totally worth it.

2. Discover what local companies and businesses have to offer.

Local businesses usually want to support their local schools. It is simply good public relations. Recently, a local design company called letting us know they’d like to mentor girls interested in entrepreneurship with their female C.E.O. leading the charge. You never know until you ask!

3. Enlist other teachers – there is power in numbers!

Part of what makes this trip easier is the fact that I share the responsibility with the third-grade teachers. They help me disseminate and collect permission slips, remind kids of pertinent details, and keep a watchful eye on wayward kids when we are in the studio.

In the end, finding awesome field trips requires a little exploration and curiosity.

Do you have an incredible local field trip you and your students love?

Would you consider reaching out to town businesses and exploring alternative field trips that connect kids with the local artistic community?

Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.


Lee Ten Hoeve

Lee Ten Hoeve, an elementary and middle school art educator, is a former AOEU Writer. She is passionate about making art a core subject and employing curiosity to engage learners.

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