I was blessed to work in a fabulous district that allowed me to take my students on Community-Based outings to receive instruction in the community. During these trips, we observed the kids in a new environment and informally assessed numerous skills. As I observed skills that needed to be taught, I added those lessons into group or direct instruction. The preparation for these trips also allowed lessons that I knew would be generalized during an upcoming CBI.
One school year, I made a theme surrounding that month’s CBI trip. If we planned to visit a working farm in the month of September, the weeks leading up to the field trip were spent immersing the kids in vocabulary and visuals of a farm. I used a bulletin board to display farm animals and nature that we would see. Once we were at the farm, students generalized those pictures to the real animals.
Another school year, I asked parents to email me about their child’s favorite outings with their families. Each month I planned a field trip around their special places. This was interesting because it allowed me to observe them in places they frequented with their families. We went to bounce houses, Target, McDonalds, Deanna Rose and the park.
Each year, two of our trips remained the same. During the Christmas season we ventured to Independence Center (a mall) and visited Santa. Santa and his helpers were extremely patient and always sent us away with lots of pictures of the kids with Santa. In the mall, a train, a merry-go-round and a play place kept us entertained for hours. Before this trip, I printed off pictures of storefronts in the mall. Each adult would lead 1-2 students on a scavenger hunt through the mall to match the picture to the actual store.
Another staple in our trips was Crown Center and Union Station. A free exhibit that changes monthly with various themes and pretend play opportunities was fabulous for our kids to practice play skills and social skills. We added on other activities such as Kaleidoscope, Sea Life Aquarium or a play at Coterie Theater. And, of course, we took in some great food at Fritz’s while the kids enjoyed watching the trains.
In the Raymore community, we visited the library, post office, fire station, fast food restaurants and grocery stores. Before going to the library, we practiced filling out an application for a library card. This activity was modified in order for every student to participate. One student might write his or her name in the correct space while another student, answered personal questions for an adult using his or her device. For other students this activity entailed carrying the library card and handing it to the adult at the counter. Students were independent with this activity to the fullest extent possible.
In preparing for the trip to the post office, each student wrote a letter to a family member. Some student drew pictures, other students typed their mom and dad’s names. Other students stamped their names on the paper. When we arrived at the post office, students received money to purchase a stamp. When approaching the counter, some students used devices to speak to the postal worker. Other students practiced speaking clearly and looking at the adult to whom they were speaking.
CBIs gave my paras and me an opportunity to observe our students outside of the classroom. Knowing what I know now, I would have made different rubrics to keep better data of the student’s independence, social skills and safety skills in different settings. It is amazing what you can learn about a student just by watching their skills while getting a soda at a self-serve drink dispenser.
Another note…these trips could not have been successful without the fabulous ladies with whom I worked. Each adult was paired with 1-2 students and I (and the student’s parents) had no doubt the kids were safe and learning. I recommend CBI trips for students in the elementary setting. It is never too early to practice self-advocacy and independence skills!