Field Trip Planning – educational resources and tips

How’s this for an institutional mission?

The Henry Ford provides unique educational experiences based on authentic objects, stories, and lives from America’s traditions of ingenuity, resourcefulness and innovation. Our purpose is to inspire people to learn from these traditions to help shape a better future.

As the field trip destination for more than 90,000 children this school year, The Henry Ford lives and breathes that mission by offering a treasure of resources for students, teachers, scouting groups and any life-long learner interested in an educational perspective to their visit.

Committed to being a catalyst for change in American education, The Henry Ford has developed many innovative resources for teachers and students for the 21st century.

Henry Ford Scotch Settlement Schoolhouse

Henry Ford founded the Edison Institute (now The Henry Ford) so students could experience hands-on learning about American ingenuity.

As a former home schooling mom, I’ve planned a few field trips to The Henry Ford in my time. (Actually, as a mom of five – whenever my children ask to take friends with us there, it feels a bit like organizing a field trip.) But it’s been awhile since I thoroughly perused the education pages of I found the site rich with resources for getting the most from a school or scouting trip – or any visit for that matter.

One size doesn’t fit all
Each group traveling to The Henry Ford is going to have its own unique experience, and the education team at The Henry Ford knows that. From planning, to logistics, pre- and post-visit lessons and materials – there is a wide array of educational programs and resources for groups of all ages, shapes and sizes.

Mrs. Cohen's Shop in Greenfield Village

Students listen intently as a presenter in Mrs. Cohen’s Millinery in Greenfield Village gives them details about hat etiquette and fashion.

Getting started

If a field trip is in your future – it’s a good idea to be in the know. The Henry Ford makes keeping informed easy with its website’s education page, joining their enthusiast channel OnLearning to receive monthly updates, and The Henry Ford’s Facebook page. Each provides links to curriculum resources and valuable information on upcoming programs, special promotions, teacher enrichment, details for planning a visit to The Henry Ford and more.

The education website also lists opportunities for scouts of all kind, like merit badge guides specifically for Boy Scouts on the topics of inventing and entrepreneurship.

Girl Scouts at Greenfield Village

Nuts and bolts

Ticketing, chaperoning requirements, accessibility, directions, eating facilities and all other details specific to your group, need to be considered when planning a trip. Consult their Field Trip Planner and Chaperone Information Guide, equipped with checklists and other useful information, to empower yourself, your chaperones, and your students. If more questions remain, take a look at this FAQ section which answers some common inquiries and offers even more useful tips.

There are opportunities for reduced ticket prices for schools, home schooling groups and scouts. (Minimum numbers have to be met for the group-rate eligibility.) There are also some limited scholarship opportunities for groups that demonstrate that need. These scholarships open each Fall but, be aware, they are on a first-come, first-served basis. This is where joining the OnLearning enthusiast channel and receiving monthly updates can really reap benefits.

As a local home schooling family, we saw the benefit of purchasing a membership. It was a way for us to support The Henry Ford while affording us the opportunity to visit as often as our schedule and program would allow.

Innovative educator resources

edguideCOVER2013-2015A must-peruse item before planning a trip is the Educator Resource Guide. This excellent piece gives a detailed look at most all of the resources available pre- and post-trip. It’s easy to view online with active links to more resources. There are detailed descriptions of all focused areas such as American innovation, family and community life, democracy and civil rights, science and technology, and more. The guide is also downloadable and printable, making it portable and easy for teachers to share.

It’s really an outstanding aid for teachings making decisions and plans for a visit as well as preparing their students for what they can learn. The guide has a comprehensive outline of Common Core State Standards (CCSS), Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), Michigan Grade Level Content Expectations (GLCE) and High School Content Expectations (HSCE) and curriculum alignment to resources, exhibits and field trip activities.

To digital and beyond

The education site has multiple tools for visitors to explore topics of study relevant to their visit to The Henry Ford. Organized by subject, many more resources are a click away. Some materials include teacher lesson plans and unit packages, field trip enhancements (such as the popular History Hunter scavenger hunt pages) and pre- and post field trip and classroom resources.

The Henry Ford DigikitsExcellent tools for students studying about transportation in America are the Educator DigiKits. The Henry Ford’s education department coordinated with teacher partners and the organization’s curators and digitization efforts. The comprehensive online kits include a teacher’s guide, unit plans and student activity sheets and assessments.

The kits are effectively digital museum galleries with images of hundreds of curriculum-supporting artifacts, video and audio clips, timelines, glossaries, field trip-reinforcing ideas, bibliographies, and in-depth topical reports written by The Henry Ford curators. Although the kits are designed for curriculum-specific classroom use, I found myself completely engaged as I clicked my way through many of the resources. The organization of the materials is excellent, and the kits are thought provoking for anyone planning a visit or just interested in the subject.

The Henry Ford's Exhibit Builder

A digital excursion

DigiKits are great resources before and after a trip, but if a field trip isn’t in the cards, they allow for a curriculum-specific digital excursion into The Henry Ford’s Collections.

My personal favorite digital tool is the Exhibit Builder feature on the Collection’s site. Anyone with Internet access can build and share online a virtual exhibit of some of the institutions carefully digitized and cataloged artifacts.

Hitting the ground and bringing history to life

Here’s the best thing: With or without all the digital resources, pre-curriculum planning, etc., the experience of a visit to The Henry Ford does exactly what Henry Ford had originally intended – it inspires.

Whether it’s a trip through Henry Ford Museum, Greenfield Village or the Ford Rouge Factory Tour – the experience connects young people with the past in a unique way. When students come in contact with objects, places, dramatic performances and hands-on experiences, history really does come alive.

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