Our basic field trip for schools and other groups of children is called a Discovery Walk. Each Discovery Walk is different and the experience you have will depend on the season, the weather, the age of the children, the size of the group, the participation of the teacher or group leader, the phase of the moon, and so on. It’s hard to predict exactly what will happen, but here is an ideal scenario:

  • Packing a BagTrail Guides Prepare:  Before the group arrives, four Trail Guides – some volunteers, some staff – gather to review who is coming, how old, how many, what the schedule is, and whether the teachers requested any special theme. The Trail Guides pick routes that will keep them from running into each other and agree on who will visit Liberty first, second, third, and fourth. Each Trail Guide also packs a bag with discovery tools and activities, a first aid kit, and a map.
  • The Bus Arrives:  A bus Jeff reviews what will happen today.pulls up and one of the Audubon naturalists boards to give instructions – reminders really – not new information, since the teachers should have received a confirmation package telling them what we expect of them, and what they can expect from us.  (Click here to see the website we refer teachers to.)
  • Stash the Lunches:  If the group is staying for lunch, a couple of Lunch Helpers carry the lunches into the Center and stash them for safe keeping before returning outside to join their walk groups.
    Stashing Lunches Inside
  • Divide into Smaller Groups:  Forty children and four adults get off the bus and go directly to one of four Trail Guide volunteers – each of whom is holding a sign (Ants, Bullfrogs, Catfish, or Dragonflies).
    Off the bus Find your group
  • Give the Rules:  Each Trail Guide moves his or her group to a spot out of earshot of the other groups, gives some introductions and preliminary rules, and then takes off to discover things.
    Going over the Rules
  • Take the Walk:  Each group has an absolutely magical experience which ends with a sharing circle. The Trail Guide pulls a small clipboard out of his or her bag and records a list of things the children have seen. The list is given to the adult in the group. (Eventually, back at school, the list becomes the starting point for reflective activities – poetry, artwork, or skits.)
    Observing a family of Canada Geese.
  • Bathrooms and Lunch:  The four groups return to the Center about 5 minutes apart so that the bathrooms are never overcrowded. The first groups to return may take a few minutes to explore one or two displays inside while they wait for their classmates to finish up in the bathrooms. Once all groups are ready, they go outside to eat their lunches at our picnic tables.
    Enter here for bathrooms.
    Lunch time!
  • Self-Guided Tours / Departure:  After lunch, the teachers and other chaperones take the children on self-guided tours inside the building. At the end of the scheduled time, the bus pulls up to the sidewalk and the children board.

Does it always go so smoothly?  Of course not!  There are millions of places where things can go wrong (or at least different):  The bus is late – or early.  The teachers have not read the pre-visit package and therefore have not divided the groups as we asked.  The weather is so incredibly foul that we have to come up with an indoor alternative, including eating lunch on a big tarp on the floor of the Multipurpose room.  Some groups are smaller or larger than 40 and we divide into fewer or more small groups.  But, it’s all OK… because we’re flexible!

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