5 Field Trip Ideas for Spring Break

SONY DSC - open road to spring break field trip ideas

In Torrey Academy, we love taking students on meaningful field trips.  We think that by visiting authentic places¹, students can learn more about the text or topic of study they are interacting with in class.  As a homeschool parent, there are a number of great field trips available to you.  The Torrey Academy tutors have compiled a short list of suggested activities for Spring Break, along with some discussion questions that you can talk about as a family.  Of course, this list is focused on Los Angeles, as it’s our home base, but online parents can perhaps be inspired to find similar activities in their hometowns.

  1. getty exhibit - 1 of the top spring break field trip ideas in Southern CaliforniaVictorian Photography Exhibit at the Getty Center
    The Getty Center Museum is always a good bet, and it’s even better when they have an interesting rotating exhibit.  This spring they have an exhibit of Victorian photography.  Queen Victoria loved photography and collected it extensively, and the Getty exhibit has a number of photographs of her and the royal family, as well as selections from early photographers.

      Discussion questions:

    • What sort of art is photography? How does it compare to painting or drawing? Is one a better art form than another? Why or why not?
    • What is true in photographs? Note that photographic manipulation has been common for quite some time.  Additionally, photographers choose what to include in their image and how to present it.  What does a photograph show, and what can we know from it?
    • What does a photograph tell us about Queen Victoria that a biography cannot?

    Suggestion: Find a podcast on Victorian history before you visit to add context to viewing the portraits.

  2. Fort MacArthur Museum
    ft macarthur - 1 of the top spring break field trip ideas in Southern CaliforniaThis little museum in San Pedro is a bit in disrepair, but its contents are fascinating. It is housed in a remaining bunker from Fort MacArthur, which protected Los Angeles for the better part of the 20th Century. It was particularly important during World War II, when enemy craft got dangerously close to Southern California. One of the highlights of the museum is its collection of original newspaper articles from World War II that cover the Los Angeles Air Raid of 1942 among other events.  There are several bits of the old bunkers that are left to explore, and if you head up Paseo del Mar to the White Point Nature Preserve, you can visit the remains of a Cold War era Nike missile launch site.

      Discussion questions:

    • What is home, and what does it mean to defend home? What are we preserving, and for whom?
    • What good are museums? What do we learn from visiting a historical site, and what do we learn from museum exhibits? How is this different from what we learn by watching a documentary?

    Suggestions: Have your students read Farewell to Manzanar after the visit and have a discussion about what it means to belong to a place.  Also, take this opportunity to find a good documentary or podcast about both World War II and the Cold War.

  3. Downtown Los Angeles Walking Tours
    Birdseye view of Downtown Los Angeles - 1 of the top spring break field trip ideas in Southern California
    The LA Conservancy does regular walking tours of downtown Los Angeles. They offer several, including Historic Downtown and Art Deco Los Angeles.  These tours are well-worth the price of the tickets; you will check out beautiful buildings you’ve never been in before and learn new things about our city.

      Discussion questions:

    • Do you like the city? Why or why not? Examine your assumptions about being in a city and determine if those assumptions are valid.  What good can happen in a city that cannot happen in smaller towns?
    • Should buildings be beautiful? Why or why not? Is your answer different for different types of buildings? Why?

    Suggestion: while you are downtown, stop in at the LA Central Library, The Last Bookstore, and the Grand Central Market.

  4. Richard Nixon Library and Museum
    nixon library - 1 of the top spring break field trip ideas in Southern California
    If you grew up in Southern California, you have likely already been here.  We are fortunate enough to have two presidential libraries in Southern California, but as a historian, I have to say that the Nixon library is the best. It has the most honest and thorough exhibits of any presidential library I have been to. And, if you haven’t been recently, you must go; the newer exhibits, including a new Watergate exhibit, are superb.

      Discussion questions:

    • What makes a person great? What should we consider when evaluating the life of a public person? Is Watergate the defining event in Nixon’s life? What do we do, then, with his accomplishments?
    • How should one present history in a museum? What is the purpose of a presidential library? Do they defend presidents, memorialize them, simply present his life, etc.? What should they be doing? Why?

    Suggestions: Arrive as soon as the library opens and plan on spending all day. There is a lot to see. As always, a good podcast on mid-late 20th Century history would be helpful before the visit.

  5. Drum Barracks Museum
    Entrance to Drum Barracks - 1 of the top spring break field trip ideas in Southern CaliforniaThis museum in Wilmington is notable for two main reasons: you will learn about how California was involved in the Civil War, and you will learn about the camel cavalry.  The Drum Barracks was part of the California and Arizona Union military headquarters during the Civil War, and for a short period of time, housed military camels.  The museum provides an interesting snapshot not only of Civil War history, but of late 19th Century California History.

      Discussion questions:

    • What sorts of things are permissible in an attempt to win a war? The Drum Barracks has an original Gatling gun, an early rapid-fire gun.  Guns such as this helped make the Civil War the deadliest in American history. If you are fighting for something like the abolition of slavery, or perhaps the liberation of Europe, what are you, morally, allowed to do? Why?
    • How should we preserve historical buildings? Ask a docent about the powder magazine.  How valuable is it to have buildings that have played a role in history? Why?

    Suggestion: while you’re in Wilmington, visit the nearby Banning museum.


  1. “Authentic” means a place that has inherent value not in reference to anything else.  For example, the Medieval galleries at the Getty Center are authentically Medieval (since the artwork is from the Middle Ages) and have inherent value when learning about the time period. Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament, on the other hand, is not authentic and thus has no real value when learning about the Middle Ages. It is merely a loose, modern interpretation of the Middle Ages. It might be fun, but it has nothing to do with history.

 

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