father and daughter feeding cows in farm
Work is Cool

7 Dad Field Trips Schools Would Never Organize

Field trips are a perk of elementary education, but they tend to be rare and cautiously planned. There’s reasons for that, of course: Americans are litigious. Also, teacher to student ratios make certain destinations all but impossible to manage and certain topics make many parents uncomfortable. The result? A lot of trips to colonial reenactments and science museums, which can teach a kid about how the world works, but not how to work in the world. But during summer break, parents have an opportunity to shift the curriculum and show kids something their grade-school teacher won’t–not in the interest of shocking anyone, but in the interest of added context. Adding context is, after all, when field trips are about. And (no insult to teachers) parents are better at it because they have a smaller audience. They can tailor a trip or go bigger with it.

Before we get to the suggestions, a note on access: Depending on what you find, many of these places may be more or less willing to have visitors. There are a few tips that could help you get through the door:

  1. Call First: The front desk should be able to help you understand how feasible your request is. Ask them to get you connected with the person who can make the decision. In cases of large companies that will often be the PR person, other times it might be a manager.
  2. Clear the Hurdles: Let the representative know you’re willing to sign any waivers or non-disclosure agreements they might have.
  3. Appeal to Emotions: Be sure to stress that your prospective visitors for the sake of furthering your kid’s knowledge. They don’t want your kid to grow up dumb. Huh? Do they?

Here are some ideas for unique independent summer field trips. They’re loud, interesting, and in at least one case, disturbing and they’re not going with their school class anytime soon.

Heavy Industry

Why?

There was a time when a trip to a factory might have been part of a school curriculum. But the manufacturing industry is shrinking and, with it, interest in showing children where all the stuff their families buy comes from. This actually gives parents an opportunity. Manufacturers, understanding their place in the world, should be pretty open to showing a kid around. Often they’re looking to keep the future alive by showing kids how cool it is in a modern machine shop, or on the manufacturing floor, or in the product testing and engineering areas.

Will Kids Dig It?

Not all will, but any who are naturally curious about engineering are likely to enjoy it.

What Lesson Does It Teach?

Making stuff is hard. Doing so requires skill, determination, and time. Those are the things we buy, not stuff.

Waste Treatment Plant

Why?

Kids love poop. And pee. Basically, kids love straight up gross things. Because of this there is practically nothing better than seeing where all of their poop and pee goes. This is one of those municipal spaces that are open to citizens dropping by (you’re paying for it after all) but doesn’t quite have the pull of the firehouse. Still, it’s a pretty cool space, if not necessarily one filled with pretty fragrances.

Will Kids Dig It?

The opportunity to freely talk about poop and pee in a real context while making smell jokes will make a lot of kids happy. You know if you have one of those kids.

What Lesson Does It Teach?

They’ll know that poop doesn’t just disappear. It takes work to clean up human waste.

A Working Farm

Why?

This is not the local petting zoo and pumpkin patch. A real farm does not have a gift shop. Look for a place involved in CSA style farming. Kids can see what goes into growing a diverse amount of seasonal food and how it gets to the table of local families. Maybe even suggest they put in a little work (this is par for the course on a farm running a CSA model). It’s all about getting beyond the sanitized views of modern agriculture.

Will Kids Dig It?

Farms provide ample opportunities to play with animals and get dirty. There are also opportunities for caretaking. There’s really something for everyone.

What Lesson Does It Teach?

The knowledge that food doesn’t just show up in grocery stores helps them appreciate what’s on the table a little bit more. There’s also an opportunity to teach respect for animals.

A Working Laboratory

Why?

It’s time to go beyond the science kit and see some actual science. A welcoming lab should be pretty easy to find. There will be one at nearly any modern public or private University, though it should be noted that public university labs will be much easier to gain entry to. What kind of lab is up to the parent and what their kid is into. Look for geology labs, genetics labs, or even biology labs.

Will Kids Dig It?

Scientists in white lab coats are an entertainment archetype for children. Seeing that they are, in fact, real and really looking for answers or new innovations turns out to be a shocking and inspiring revelation (even for adults).

What Lesson Does It Teach?

Science is not just a diorama behind glass and there is not a discrete amount of knowledge in the world. To be an adult is to try to figure stuff out. Scientists model that behavior beautifully.

Police and Fire: Behind the Scenes

Why?

These municipal assets generally have great representation in the school districts. They’re likely regular classroom visitors, but there’s something about seeing police and firefighters in context that ups the ante. A visit to the local precinct can be an eye-opener for a kid. They might get to see holding cells and interrogation rooms if not in use. And if a cop or detective can talk about what they do, so much the better.

As for the firehouse, it’s a place kids don’t get a ton of access to outside special occasions. Looking behind the scenes to see how firefighters prepare adds depth to the candy-colored TV fantasies they might be used to.

Will Kids Dig It?

Kids meet firefighters and police, but rarely in the context of their workplaces. And there’s tons of cool stuff in those workplaces. Also, they’re normally nice enough to let kids play with their hats.

What Lesson Does It Teach?

It’s important to know that there’s more to firefighters and cops than just smiling classroom visitors or bad local news. Plus, it gives your kid a face and a name to the people meant to protect them. And that’s not a bad thing.

The Brewery

Why?

There’s a lot of fascinating stuff that goes down in the process of making beer. There is heat and steam and grain. There are huge stainless steel vessels. There are microbes working hard to make alcohol. It’s like alchemy, really. And that’s what your kid gets out of a brewery tour: a connection to history, a lesson in science and a better understanding of what you’re putting in your face every night. Is it bad they don’t get to enjoy the tasting part? Nah.

Will Kids Dig It?

Depends a bit on who’s giving the tour, but a good guide will take about steam, microbes and machines. And there’s the sense of being allowed into an adult space that’s also exciting.

What Lesson Does It Teach?

Anyone who can learn the difference between a lager and a pilsner before 21 is going to have a jump on the competition. There’s also the opportunity to destigmatize and deromanticize alcohol. When it’s less of an abstract idea, it’s less fascinating. It’s just another thing.

The Slaughterhouse

Why?

We are a country of meat-eaters. Or at least those of us who haven’t decided to go veg or get bitten by the lone star tick. And if we want to be honest with ourselves, the sanitized way our meat arrives in our homes is one of the most self-serving illusions we buy into every day. Seeing animals die is not be pretty but it should probably be mandatory at least once for any meat eater. Yes. This is advanced stuff and you’ll need some major conversations before and after. But it’s a valuable trip to make.

Will Kids Dig It?

Almost certainly not. Hopefully not.

What Lesson Does It Teach?

Confronting where meat comes from will probably make them healthier and definitely make them more informed consumers in the long run. That said, it will teach them not to trust their parents if you take them too young. Wait on it.

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