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We're Going on a Bear Hunt!

And we don’t need to rent a bus. An idea-inspiring jaunt may be just beyond the front door.

By Mary Ellen Flannery

Call for a “Maaap!” like Dora the Explorer.

“Back in the Dark Ages, my geography teacher took us outside to create a map of the school grounds, using only our feet as a measuring guide,” recalls a colleague on the NEA online community forum.

Up on the roof! Talk to your school custodian about roof access, where your students can study wind and clouds, observe birds, map their community, and learn about roof construction and drainage. “Kids are curious about areas that are off-limits to them,” notes Indiana teacher Hannah Sitzman. With plenty of notice to your colleagues, take them to the faculty lounge or workroom. Consider letting them use the snack machine as a special reward!

Send older students to read to younger kids or help youngsters with lessons that they’ve already mastered, suggests Cori-Lei Chong. They will be welcomed!

A magnifying glass can be fun to take outside, suggests author Carroll. During a walk around the schoolyard, ask students to take a close look at what’s happening in pavement cracks, on trees, or even between grass blades.

Nutrition manager Claire Bailey takes students behind the scenes in their Lewiston, Maine, cafeteria. “They’re totally amazed!” she says. They step inside the pantry, the refrigerator and freezer—but their favorite sight might be the steam jacket kettle, an enormous gas-powered pot that can boil up to 50 pounds of pasta. “It’s like a big witch’s brew pot.”

You can travel thousands of miles from your school’s computer lab on Web-based “virtual trips.” Rick Barter, technology coordinator at his Maine elementary school, likes Google Earth and Google Earth Community for that very thing. For example, with interactive maps from the Silk Road, kids can “swoop down to places in Asia and see the terrain that was traveled way back then and places visited along the way.”

Call the police! Or the fire department. Officer Friendly usually welcomes the opportunity to bring an official vehicle to school and show students how the job is done.

Take a shape trip, like Cori-Lei Chong, a Hawaii kindergarten teacher, whose students walk around the school (with clipboards in hand) looking for circles and squares. They’ve also done “job tours,” where they visit different job sites in the school—the custodian’s office, the librarian’s desk, the principal’s office, etc.—and then return to the classroom to make a book about people who work in their school.

Visiting the nurse when you’re well is a lot more fun. At Maggie Beall’s Pennsylvania school, her visitors can learn about vision and hearing assessments and even peek inside a classmate’s eardrum. They can try out the stethoscope, count their pulse, and learn about blood pressure. They also can plot individual growth charts, check out their immunization records, and learn about proper hand washing. And don’t forget the reflex hammer. Bong!

High school artists can visit their gymnasium to draw bodies in motion, suggests Minnesota teacher Maureen Gunderson.

Amid the bluejays and woodpeckers, at the edge of his Virginia middle school campus, band director Sean McKillop asks his students to hear “the rhythm and balance of our world’s natural music.” Then off they go to the parking lot, where he revs up his car, flips on his wipers, and shows them that even cars make music.

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