Prep work before
1. Look to see hours, distance to travel, and other things of that nature. I've made the mistake a few times of not checking ahead of time and getting there to discover the place we were going closed.
2. Check to see if there's a website. If there is look for any lesson plans to go along with it. Many museums or zoos have lesson plans to go with their museum. They also frequently have picture scavenger hunts for younger kids to complete.
3. Pack all snacks and lunches you plan to bring. Double check if you can bring them in. Some museums allow you to bring small snacks, others do not allow any food inside, but will allow you to leave to eat and come back in.
4. If it's a museum dedicated to someone, or someone's house, try checking out a book about the subject to let them learn more beforehand, and to bring up more questions.
While you're there
1. Take advantage of maps. This is a great chance to have a hands on map skills lesson.
2. Figure out what places are high priority and go there first. For my kids when we go to zoos, their highest priorities are giraffes and lions. Children's Museums, their highest priorities are the grocery stores or towns. Most other museums it is hands on exhibits.
3. I'm sure you all know this, but if it's just your family and you are not on a particular schedule, leave while the kids are still happy. It's so tempting to squeeze out one more activity to "get your money's worth out of it," but every time I've tried that it has not gone well.
4. If it is not a museum geared towards children, try to alternate exhibits that are less hands on and exhibits that are more hands on.
After the field trip
1. For younger kids, have them narrate what happened, and what their favorite parts were. Older kids who are starting to write can write their own summary.
2. Do any follow up activities suggested from the website. Our local children's museum has suggestions of what to do after your visit related to the current traveling exhibit. Depending on the type of exhibit it can be a science experiment, a writing activity, or a building activity.
3. Go to the library and follow up on any topics or questions brought up. We frequently follow up zoo visits by getting more information about animals we saw.
4. Write a story. This is one of my kids' favorites activities to do. They will spend a lot of time making up stories about them and the pictures we took.