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How to Use Walking Trips to Connect to the Community

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by Neil Finney

Few learning experiences are able to connect student, school and community in such a straightforward and easy way as walking trips. First, they give our students an opportunity to recognize and learn about the terrific places that exist where they live. Next, they provide a chance to enjoy the immense benefits of experiential learning outside of our classroom walls. Finally, walking trips are a great way to improve student physical fitness. To enjoy this experience with your students, follow these steps:

Do your research. Visit the local tourist information center or talk to staff members about some of the attractions and local sites that would be great places to take your class. Make sure that you call ahead to make arrangements, if it is a local business or tourist location to ensure they can accommodate you and your class.

*Tip From a Mentor – Send home a survey with parents (or post one on the school website) that asks their input about great community places to visit with your class.

 1. Get permission. Check to make sure that each student in your class has permission to participate in a walking trip outside the school. At my school, this is part of our school’s code of conduct that is returned at the start of the year. If one does not exist, create your own permission form that can be used for walking trips (for the duration of the year).

*Tip From a Mentor – Before the walking trip, remember to review your behavior expectations for the class. Tell them: Today you are representing our school out in the community. Make sure that your actions and words reflect the expectations that we have for you at our school. Make us proud!

 2. Prepare Them for Success. Before you even arrive at your destination, your students should be prepared to gather information. Spend time during a literacy lesson on how to create thought-provoking questions. Have them bring notebooks to jot down ideas and thoughts.

3. Solidify the Community Connection. After your walking trip has ended, students could create some artwork that incorporates the school logo along with aspects of the local business you visited. In this way, there is a concrete – and artistic – representation of how the school is part of the larger community that can be posted outside of school walls for the public to see.

Walking trips are a great way to get students out in the community learning about where they live and the interesting people they can learn from just outside their school – and they’re free!

Share your community with us. What is your top destination for a walking trip of your community? What real-life lessons might your students learn while out in the community as a class?

 

During Neilʼs 9 years of teaching experience, he has taught in London, England; Ontario; public and private schools; elementary and secondary; junior; intermediate; core french; developmental skills; and now junior gifted (grades 4,5,6). He is a Reading Specialist that has been incorporating technology in his practice consistently throughout his career. Neil has recently published his first book entitled “Ignite. Incite. Inspire.” – Examining 21st Century Issues in Education, which is a collection of teaching articles and posts written from January to December 2011.

 

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  • Janet Lee

    I can see how these walking trips can inspire students to appreciate their surroundings on a deeper level. Would be a great way to introduce detailed word choice to students’ writing.

  • http://neilfinney.blogspot.com Neil Finney

    I remember taking a walking trip in my hometown neighbourhood as a Grade 6 student. We walked to 3 different houses that had really interesting architecture and sat on the sidewalk to sketch them. It was definitely a novel school experience and has stuck with me to this day. So many great things to see and do close to where we teach – and live!

  • Julia

    Great idea about exploring a historic cemetery. Nearby my home there’s a Pioneer cemetery. It’s fascinating to learn about past generations by the symbols they chose to display, and words used to describe themselves after death.