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The Field Trip Lady

by Teri Brown

We may be in the information age, but the industrial revolution left a legacy of creativity, hard work and conveyor belts. How things are made has been the fascination of children since, well, since things were first made! The study

of the industrial age can be enhanced by factory thumbed field trips, or maybe you would just like to see the ins and outs of production. In any case, factory field trips can open up a whole new world for your child. When looking for fieldtrips of this sort for your children keep in mind the age and maturity of your child. The following questions should be asked before you undertake a factory fieldtrip.

  • Will they understand what they are seeing?
     
  • Is the end product something they are familiar with?
     
  • Are they old enough to practice safe behavior in an industrial setting?

If the answers to all these questions are yes, you are ready to go!

When first searching for factory field trips, check out the possibilities close to home. What kind of industries does your own town support? If you are in a coastal town, you may have a shipping industry. If you do, the opportunities are almost endless. There may be a flourishing ship yards near by. Find out the name of one of the ship building companies and ask if they have a museum (some either have one or know of one close by) or if they give tours. Most haven't considered giving a tour because they haven't been asked. Many are delighted to have the chance to do so. I feel that in this situation it would be desirable to put together a group. If they are going to go to the trouble of giving a tour, it might as well be for more then one family. Remember to ask if there are any safety precautions your children should be made aware of.

Other ideas for the coastal town are a trip to the docks to watch the ships come in and unload. To enhance this field trip, try to find out which warehouse the cargo is going to and then ask if you can watch it being loaded. If they won't allow it, you can often times find a place to stand outside the warehouse and watch the loaded trucks take off for all parts of the country. Nothing like having a little geography lesson thrown in!

Does your coastal town have an active fisheries industry? My children and I love to watch the ins and outs of this industry. From the boats coming in and unloading their catch to the canning and shipping, this industry is not only fun to watch but one of the easiest as many fishing canneries have areas open to the public, often including a little shop filled with their wares. Warning: this is one stinky industry!

If you don't live on the coast and don't have easy access to the shipping or fishing industry, don't despair, there are a multitude of other factories to be explored. In the Midwest you have the automobile industry. There are many things to see and do while learning about the ways of vehicle manufacturing. Most of the larger automobile factories have some sort of tours available and many boast museums. After checking out how cars are made, you might want to take your children to see how they are sold! No automobile field trip would be finished without at least touching upon Henry Ford and all he did, not only for the automobile industry, but also for production and industry in general. If you're in the area, I have heard good things of the Henry Ford Museum & Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan. Here you can discover the history of Henry Ford and a myriad of activities for your child, including camps, workshops and classes. It's definitely is worth a stop!

Another fascinating industry is the wood products industry. Most of the larger wood products companies are working hard to maintain a positive public image and, no matter your feelings on the subject, they have a lot of good scientific information to offer. Many give tours and still others have hands on science and historical museums. Old logging camps are persevered in many areas and your children can get a closer look as to how logging was done in the early 1900's. One logging camp, Camp 18, located on Highway 26 in the Oregon Coast range, is part restaurant, part rest stop and part outdoor museum. It does a great job at all these things!

These are only three of many interesting industrial type field trips. If you search for them, they will pop up everywhere, textiles, coal, oil, and foods all have their own factories and their own ways of doing things. Go to enough of these and you will find you and your children have become experts on how things are made!

Copyright © 2006 Modern Media