Best Student Field Trips in Chicago

With so many options, how does a teacher choose what will be the best student field trips for their class? A field trip is such a memorable experience for enthusiastic learners. When I look back on my years in school, it’s the field trip days that clearly stand out to me. Whether focused on art, nature, music or science, a student field trip in Chicago or the Chicago area should be very special. Here is a handy guide and some helpful ideas for planning your student field trip.

activities best student field trips Chicago Loop Interior Architecture

#1. Do Something New for Students

First of all, let’s rule out field trips that students may have already experienced or that parents could easily take them to in the future. Events like a student field trip have more impact when the participants feel like they’ll never be able to repeat the same experience. Teachers booking our student group tours sometimes ask me for other ideas for their field trip in Chicago. Only if the group is from far out of the Midwest would I recommend the very respectable institutions like the Art Institute or the Field Museum. While these museums are infinitely engaging, students from the suburbs and the Midwest may have already been and will go again in the future.

#2. Make it active, educational and fun

Secondly, the best student field trips have an activity that fulfills the grand triad: active, educational and fun. Passive activities can be fine, as long as there is an interactive element that gets students thinking from new perspectives. Student bus tours, like our Jazz, Blues and Beyond, might seem passive, since much of it is students sitting on a bus. However, we ask students questions about what they see. We also play an active listening game to get them actively engaged.

Other activities that fulfill this requirement could be a guided tour of a historic theater. I particularly appreciated the dynamic and detailed experience of the tour at the iconic Chicago Theatre. A visit to an artist studio, such as at Lakuna Lofts, is incredible for budding artists, though it works best for smaller-sized groups.

Considering trying a smaller or lesser known museum for cultural field trips, as they often offer more personal experiences. Years ago, I took some students to the Smart Museum of Art on the University of Chicago campus. The museum educator there did an excellent job at asking students questions to help make contemporary art more fun and accessible for them.

For science field trips, I highly recommend getting up close and personal with the Chicago River! Both Friends of the Chicago River and Mercury Cruises offer ecologically-based student field trips that focus on the Chicago River. Students get to learn about water creatures, water monitoring, and maybe even slime!

What doesn’t fulfill this requirement? It surprises me when teachers want to take their students to Navy Pier. The amusement-park atmosphere can certainly be fun, but the best student field trips should teach something, too!

Henry B. Clarke House museum student field trips

#3. The Best Student Field Trips Will Connect with Curriculum

Thirdly, teachers should connect their Chicago student field trip with topics from their classes. The activity could connect with themes that fit within the subject matter. A visit to the Clarke House, Chicago’s oldest building, could tie in with an American history course. Factory visits can fit into various science classes. For example, a physics class could visit Chicago’s last pinball factory at Stern Pinball (technicaly, it’s just outside Chicago’s city limits). The machines and colors are mesmerizing, and students actually get to learn how they work! Lots of music students like band groups love the aforementioned Jazz, Blues & Beyond tour. The tour teaches them about how Chicago came to be such a hotbed for music. Students don’t just learn trivia and facts. Instead they hear the dynamic stories behind the people and groups of Chicago music history.

Our 1893 World’s Fair Walking Tour with Games gives an in-depth look at the beautiful remaining buildings in downtown from the era of famous World’s Columbian Exposition. This new walking tour incorporates educational games and the route weaves into historic buildings downtown. Group is divided into two teams. There are prizes, too!

Planning the best student field trips in Chicago will ultimately depend on the excellence of teachers who best understand the interests and passions of their students. Good luck planning your field trip, and let us know if we can be of any help!

–Amanda Scotese, Executive Director

ABOUT CHICAGO DETOURS

Chicago Detours offers guided walking and bus tours of architecture, history and culture to public and private groups. We are a passionate team of educators, historians, artists and storytellers, and are proud to be one of very few tour companies in Chicago that is rated five stars on both Yelp and TripAdvisor.

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Ellen

Private Tour Coordinator and Tour Guide

There is no shortage of things to discover in Chicago—I love being an urban explorer and uncovering its hidden places. I have an MA in Public History from Loyola University Chicago, and I have worked as a museum educator and kindergarten teacher. My desire to learn new things fuels my passion for educating others, which I get to experience every day as a Chicago tour guide. I live in the northern neighborhood of Rogers Park.

“Our guide Ellen was exceptional and gifted with a great personal touch.”
Robert
GetYourGuide

Jen

Tour Guide

Whether you are a first-time visitor or a lifelong resident, the vibrant history and modern majesty of Chicago never ceases to amaze. I’m a graduate of Columbia College with an M.A. in Interdisciplinary Art. I’ve worked for many years as an educator at City Colleges of Chicago. As tour guide at Chicago Detours, I integrate my enthusiasm for culture and architecture with my passion as an educator. West Town/Noble Square area is home for me.

“Jen was a perfect storyteller and kept us spellbound for hours.”
Heather
TripAdvisor

Elyse

Tour Guide

With our Chicago neighborhoods, vibrant cultural institutions and nearly two centuries of larger-than-life stories, there’s never a dull moment here! I’m a fifth generation Chicagoan and a graduate of Washington University in St. Louis. In addition to guiding tours, I’m a creative writer and amateur genealogist. I also enjoy the city’s dynamic theater scene. You can also read overlooked stories from 19th-century newspapers on my “Second Glance History” blog. I live in River North.

Anthony

Tour Guide

Chicago is unique as it always evolves into the future while holding on to the past. I’m fascinated by how people latch on to old architecture but happily pave over others. My background is in theater and performance and I’ve been a tour guide here for more than 10 years. Currently I’m finishing my Master’s in Public History at Loyola University because I love to teach the history of this scrappy city. I’m in the Edgewater neighborhood.

Marie

Operations Coordinator and Tour Guide

Chicago’s history is so fascinating, you could spend a lifetime uncovering its secrets…I’m willing to give it a try! I have an M.A. in US History from the University of Nevada-Las Vegas and then pursued doctoral studies in Urban History at the University of Illinois at Chicago. I love to learn new aspects of Chicago’s rich history and then share my knowledge as a tour guide with Chicago Detours. I live in Ravenswood.

“Marie was a bubbling fountain of information and contagious enthusiasm.”
Lorit
TripAdvisor

Sonny

Operations Coordinator and Tour Guide

As a fourth generation Chicagoan, I have been living and loving Chicago by bike, on foot, public transit or automobile. I am a graduate of UIC where through the College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs, began my eagerness to understand the nature, history and impacts of urban planning and development. It is incredibly rewarding to give back to this wonderful city by helping out in the office of Chicago Detours. I live in the incredibly diverse neighborhood of Albany Park.
“Sonny was extremely knowledgeable about all things Chi-town.”
Wade K
TripAdvisor

Alex

Content Manager and Tour Guide

Chicago has so many neighborhoods, buildings, and by-ways that it’s hard to go long without seeing something new, or something familiar from a new angle. I studied Cinema History for my M.A. from the University of Chicago. I’ve worked as a culture writer for various publications and as an educator of the humanities at the City Colleges of Chicago. I’m thrilled to share my love of this city’s busy past and unique architectural spaces with Chicago Detours. I live in the Chicago neighborhood of Lincoln Park.

“Alex was fascinating to listen to. He clearly knows his history and it shows.”
Katie K
Yelp

Amanda Scotese

Executive Director and Tour Guide

I’m an interpreter of personal stories from the past and the city’s landscape. I love to imagine what originally happened inside old unmarked buildings, and what forces have shaped their design. I studied Chicago history, architectural history, and anything Chicago-related through my M.A. in the Humanities at the University of Chicago. My love for stories was enriched by my B.A. in Literature from the University of Michigan. I’ve written travel articles for publications like Rick Steves’ Italy best-selling travel guides, the San Francisco Bay Guardian, and The Chicago Food Encyclopedia. I live in the Chicago neighborhood of West Avondale.
“You can TELL Amanda is hyper-passionate about doing the research and getting the story that nobody’s heard before.”
Shelby F
Yelp

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