Five Great Spots for STEM Field Trips in Chicago

Field trips aren’t just for the Senior Class and the band kids anymore! We get tons of inquiries for private tours from science and engineering teachers. To help with your field trip planning, we’re highlighting the best spots for STEM field trips in Chicago. Of course, we’re always happy to lead your charges on one of our student field trip tours like the Chicago Highlights Bus Tour.

#1. Museum of Science and Industry

Jackson Park Palace of Fine Arts Museum of Science and Industry
Don’t let the historic image fool ya, MSI is one of the most cutting-edge spots for STEM field trips in Chicago. Image via Wikimedia.

The Museum of Science and Industry is the perfect starting point for STEM field trips in Chicago. MSI is stuffed to the gills with fascinating scientific displays and exhibits. My particular favorites are the coal mine, the Pioneer Zephyr, and the artificial storm creator. I bet your students will demand to see U-505, a German WWII submarine preserved after its 1944 capture. Also, don’t forget to tell your students that MSI is the only remaining structure from the famous 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition.

#2. Adler Planetarium

The Adler Planetarium, on Museum Campus, is one of the best spots for STEM field trips in Chicago. Image via the Library of Congress.

The smallest of the institutions out on Museum Campus might just be the perfect one for STEM field trips in Chicago. Adler Planetarium is, in fact, the first planetarium in the country, founded all the way back in 1930. These days, the star (hehe) attraction is The Universe: A Walk Through Time and Space. This general admission exhibit will lead your students on a walk to the furthest stretches of astronomy. You may also want to consider all-access passes so you can see one of the planetarium shows.

#3. Argonne National Laboratory

The National Laboratories are a likely career goal for many a STEM student. So why not visit the oldest of them, Argonne National Laboratory, out in suburban Lemont? Argonne dates back to the Manhattan Project, carrying out experiments that led to Chicago Pile-1 and the dawn of the atomic age. Student visitors to Argonne engage in Learning Labs, which are “hands-on experiments designed to educate participants on the major challenges that Argonne scientists and engineers are currently researching.”

#4. Fermilab

Fermilab STEM field trips in Chicago
Fermilab, in the Chicago suburbs, is a fascinating destination for those interested in physics. Image via Wikimedia.

Chicago’s history of cutting-edge scientific research means we have two National Laboratories in the hinterlands. Fermilab, named after the Chicago-based physicist Enrico Fermi, is the Department of Energy’s particle accelerator. I won’t pretend to understand exactly what they’re doing out near Batavia. Your STEM students will enjoy visiting the spot where the “Top Quark” was discovered. Like Argonne, Fermilab offers Science Adventures for students, making this another great spot for STEM field trips in Chicago.

#5. McCormick Bridgehouse Museum and the Riverwalk

McCormick bridgehouse Museum Riverwalk
The Bridgehouse Museum, on the lefthand side of the photo, lets your students explore the natural and engineered aspects of our waterways. Image via Wikimedia.

The Field Museum of Natural History is justly a go-to spot for STEM field trips in Chicago, and you may have expected it to round out our list. I want to highlight a smaller institution for your visit: the McCormick Bridgehouse Museum and the adjacent Riverwalk. The Bridgehouse Museum, located in the famous Michigan Avenue Bridge, explores both the natural history and human engineering of the Chicago River. Before or after their museum visit, students can explore the Riverwalk, a beautiful new addition to Chicago’s space.

Any and all of these spots for STEM field trips in Chicago should leave students both entertained and enlightened. Such an experience can be just what budding, tech-savvy kids need to blossom into tomorrow’s great minds.

 – Alex Bean, Content Manager and Tour Guide

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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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