Great Places to Learn
The Lake Champlain Basin offers a variety of fun and engaging opportunities to take learning outside. These sites can focus on a specific subject, or can be jumping-off points for exploring the issues, processes, and perspectives that define and challenge the watershed.
Follow CBEI educators to sites they have visited in the Great Places to Learn story map. Get involved with solving real problems as you grapple with the complexities of local places!
Learn more about these Great Places to Learn in a fullscreen story map.
Choosing a Site
Teachers have a lot of choices when planning where to take students. With the cost of busses and other constraints, choosing where to use the precious time and money is an important decision. One consideration is how much of the planning you will do yourself—and how much will you collaborate with the non-classroom educators and staff who work at different sites.
In the Champlain Valley there are wonderful places that offer planned trips and well-trained staff that can teach your students a variety of lessons. Other great places have no staff on site and you will plan the entire experience. There are many different reasons to choose one over the other. A novice teacher might want to “warm-up” with a trained staff-person on site. A veteran may feel comfortable taking students to a wilderness area and planning five hours of exploration and inquiry.
Teachers can choose to visit places with:
- Organized school programs
- Staff at site to welcome you and assist you with your plan
- Natural areas and historic sites with no staff on site
- no facilities; place that are . . . just places!
There are also many opportunities to learn in areas near our schools. The National Wildlife Federation assists schools in developing outdoor habitats right outside the classroom doors with their Schoolyard Habitats program.
Visiting Places with Organized School Programs
Formal field trips are offered at numerous sites and by organizations that provide planned field trips for school groups. These places are set up for classes and, among other things, address issues and topics directly related to watershed education. Places such as the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum, Shelburne Farms, ECHO, and Fort Ticonderoga can provide students with a full day of interesting, deep learning.
For example, Shelburne Farm offers a workshop on soil for K-3 students—not a workshop that all teachers might be able to offer themselves. Shelburne Farms staff offers this invitation: “Connect to the world beneath your feet and discover why soil is the basis of life on earth. Meet worms and learn how they contribute to soil health with natural decomposition and composting.”
A 4-8 workshop on WETLANDS ECOSYSTEM offers this focus: “Discover the functions and characteristics of wetlands through hands–on activities. Identify adaptations of common wetland plants and critters, dig into properties of wetland soil, and determine water quality using biotic factors!”
For more info: www.shelburnefarms.org/educationprograms/fieldtrips.shtml
Visiting Places with Staff at Site
Smaller organizations offer sites for visits and you can often plan a learning experience with the staff. It could range from: “we will show up at 9am and be on-site for four hours: can you tell us where we can eat lunch and will we be able to use your bathrooms?” to doing extensive planning with a staff person who then provides a tour of the facility/area and remains available while students conduct research on site.
Local history museums, such as Mill Museum in Winooski, Crown Point Historical Site, and the John Brown Site, have staff on site to provide assistance.
For example, students could research the history of the Crown Point Historic Site and find out about the different settlements there. Then—on site—students could tour the site, find artifacts and specific locations related to their area of interest, and record their findings in journal entries. At the end of the visit you could tour the site again as small groups present a talking timeline with what they have learned.
Visiting Places with NO Staff at Site
Numerous places, such as state parks, natural areas, and some historic sites, are not staffed—especially during the school year. It is important to check with the hosting organization if you plan to visit these sites. Often it is just a matter of getting permission. Sometimes an organization might be able to arrange to have a person on site during your visit.
Visiting Places... that are just places!
Any place in the watershed can be a "power spot" or site of inquiry for your students. Students can conduct inventories, research, and interviews and create photographic essays or maps. These authentic explorations can be ways to launch a place-based study or can be ongoing as you find ways to deepen connections to the places where they live.
Although there are a number of amazing formal learning activities that are available—don’t forget about what can be learned from getting to know a small patch of land or mucking about in a puddle, a patch of forest, or a wetland.