children getting on a yellow schoolbus

Children learn what others expect of them and thus develop their own expectations for themselves through daily experiences with their communities. Visually impaired preschoolers need enhanced, planned opportunities to learn about their communities through first-hand experiences.

Community field trips can be important and early career development opportunities. They give preschoolers the chance to learn about what workers do in fire stations, physician offices, bakeries, post offices, or restaurants. Here are five tips for making the trip a positive learning experience from the book Skills for Success: A Career Education Handbook for Children and Adolescents with Visual Impairments.

  1. Hands-on learning opportunities are essential for children with visual impairments. Let the contact person at the community site know that children will need to touch equipment and explore the environment. Make arrangements for them to handle and explore selected items at the site.

  2. Prepare children for the trip by discussing where they will be going. Ask, “What do you think will be there?” “Who will be there?” “What will we see?”

  3. Provide verbal labels and descriptions of the objects as the children examine them; for instance, “The fire truck is a big red truck,” and “the firefighter wears a hard hat and black rubber boots.”

  4. Use field trips to help children integrate concepts being introduced in other activities. A trip to the petting zoo to learn about zookeepers or to the humane society to learn about veterinarians is a natural component of a unit on pets and the classification of animals.

  5. Provide opportunities for children to meet adults with similar disabilities to theirs and to notice these people doing work or carrying out activities. Emphasize similarities in their adaptive tools and the adults’ tools—for example, “Mrs. Daugherty’s hearing aid is the same as yours.”

With field trips, you can provide a broad range of experiential learning opportunities that are developmentally appropriate from unusual places, such as a pottery studio, to traditional community sites, such as a police station or farm. Every experience helps a child think more about “what do I want to be when I grow up?”

For many more field trip ideas and activities, refer to the APH Press book Skills for Success: A Career Education Handbook for Children and Adolescents with Visual Impairments, edited by Karen Wolffe and available in the APH Bookstore.