Top Field Trip Destinations of the Triangle

10 Places to See When School's Out!
Museumoflifeandsciencefieldtripsturtle Class Girl Hi Res
Photo courtesy of Museum of Life and Science in Durham

"We're going on a field trip!"

For students, that rallying cry can lead to a life-changing, eye-opening experience. The Triangle's hands-on museums, natural beauty, history and family-friendly lifestyle offer a wide variety of field trips for every age group and interest.

Spaced Out

How heavy is the air around us? What tools do scientists use to study and predict earthquakes? Where in the universe does time stand still? Curious kids can find intriguing answers to these questions and others at the Morehead Planetarium and Science Center in Chapel Hill. Most visits begin with a traditional live-narration star show or full-dome planetarium show, such as "Magic Tree House Space Mission," that provides a peek into the most distant edges of the universe. Schoolchildren become part of the show when they enter the "Science Stage," where they volunteer to help conduct live science experiments and demonstrations. The interactive exhibit "Water in Our World," provides a behind-the-scenes look at science research and a chance to inspire interest in science careers. Planetarium programs align with the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction's Essential Standards. Learn more at

Super Science

With two stories of indoor, hands-on exhibits and an 84-acre outdoor campus, the Museum of Life and Science in Durham provides varied interactive experiences. Popular activities for visiting school groups include designing flying structures in "Launch Lab," exploring the "Magic Wings Butterfly House," digging for fossils on the "Dinosaur Trail" and exploring cloud formations at "Into the Mist." Many exhibits align with NCDPI's Essential Standards for science. In addition to self-guided field trips, teachers can choose to add a hands-on program with the museum's education team to their visit. Programs for pre-K through eighth grade come in three lengths and some, such as animal encounters, can be customized. Admission discounts are available for groups. Learn more at

Prairie Ridge Ecostation, the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences' field station in west Raleigh, offers visitors the chance to learn about sustainable living while experiencing the natural world. Field trips for K-12 students are offered entirely outdoors. The site features 45 acres of reconstructed prairie, lowland forest and wetlands, with hiking trails throughout. Programs like "Cycles of Life," "Animal Adaptations" and "Human Impacts on Aquatic Systems" are correlated to the state curriculum. A Nature Playspace – open during the center's business hours – is designed for children ages 7 and younger. Learn more at and in the Educator's Guide at

 Photo at Prairie Ridge Ecostation courtesy of C. L. Goforth

Step into the future at North Carolina State University's Solar House in Raleigh, where tours are free. The Solar House is primarily designed to reach students in kindergarten through grade 12 for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education and outreach. The house and will be closed from May 1 to Sept. 1, 2016, and will reopen in the fall for school groups to schedule tours.

Historic Remnants

Head to Historic Yates Mill County Park to tour a circa-1756 operable grain mill, where the air is scented with North Carolina's agrarian past. Trained docents and members of the education staff lead groups through the historic site. The park is a 174-acre nature refuge, where trained naturalists serve as guides. Tour the Yates Family's original mill equipment, which they operated until the mid-1950s. Visit the park center's exhibit hall for interactive displays, a group scavenger hunt and a historic dress-up area. Learn more at

Take students back in time at various historic sites such as the Bennett Place State Historic Site in Durham, where Confederate and Union generals met to sign surrender papers for the Southern armies in the Carolinas, Georgia and Florida. Learn about North Carolina's largest antebellum plantation at Historic Stagville in Durham. Visit the 1769 plantation manor of Revolutionary patriot Joel Lane and the Old State Capitol in downtown Raleigh, and walk through Mordecai Historic Park to see the oldest house in Raleigh on its original location, as well as the log cabin where President Andrew Johnson was born. Learn more in the article, Take a History Tour of the Triangle.

Don't overlook field trips to local businesses and companies. Ursula Vogt, a mom from Hickory, North Carolina, says such trips have allowed her son to switch cameras during a news program at a local TV station, see industrial robotics in action and even milk a cow. "Wherever their imagination takes them is where you go!" she says.

Odile Fredericks is the web editor for Carolina Parent. Read more in her blog, News, Fun, Deals.

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