When teachers think about organizing class field trips, they generally imagine a bus trip. But Timothy Peterson, coordinator of the Madison Metropolitan School District's science program, wants to get them thinking on a neighborhood level.
"What features are in a school's backyard? What things can we use to tie to the curriculum, not just with science but sociology, history and art?" Peterson asks. "What's in a five-minute walk, what's in a 10-minute walk? Teachers could potentially take their class out once a week or three days in a row."
And so Peterson is cataloging things like parks, woods, architecture and effigy mounds on or near school property. The inventory will be listed on the school's website, along with suggestions for how teachers can incorporate it into lessons.
Taking excursions close to school can save money. And, says Peterson, it helps connect students to their environs: "If a student does water-quality work on the Yahara River and they're able to do that over time, that becomes real to them, because they can ride their bike there on non-school hours and show mom and dad what they're doing."