Field trips keep kids learning outside of class

They put on their hardhats and pack into a mineshaft elevator. Later, they examine rare minerals and pan for gold to take home with them.

We are talking about fourth-graders, of course.

Those are some of the activities they can experience at the McCaw School of Mines, one of the Clark County School District's most popular field trip destinations.

The 4,500-square-foot, simulated mine offers several education resources for students, who learn about Nevada history and its mining connections in fourth grade. Nevada is the world's third-largest gold producer behind South Africa and Australia.

"It goes along with their classroom activities when they study Nevada history," said mine manager JaNell Sanchez. "It keeps their interest because they do hands-on experiments."

The best kinds of field trips, Sanchez said, are the ones where kids are engaged and learning while actually having fun.

What makes the mine more appealing is the free transportation provided by the McCaw School of Mines Foundation. Schools usually have to pay for bus transportation from their individual budgets. The school district said field trips have declined in recent years because of budget cuts but could not provide specifics.

Tours at the mine run from October through May. Interested teachers must undergo training, which is usually held in September. For more information, visit or call at 799-3546.

Another popular field trip that allows students to get in touch with nature is Wetlands Park, 7050 Wetlands Park Lane, off Tropicana Avenue, east of Boulder Highway.

Park curator of education Christie Leavitt said the park is about 2,900 acres and offers a great opportunity for exploration and exercise.

"We try to get them to use all of their senses to appreciate the kinds of natural things we have," Leavitt said. "I think it's a great opportunity to take scientific principles they're learning and apply that in reality.

"There's a great physical fitness component. They walk bout two miles while they're here."

Leavitt said the park can accommodate up to 60 students at a time, and there are age-appropriate learning activities for all grade levels. Students are given basic scientific equipment to become "nature scene investigators."

A new 30,000-square-foot nature center is expected to open this spring and include new exhibits, an auditorium and classrooms to add a new experience.

Field trips usually are scheduled Tuesdays and Thursdays between October and April. Admission is free, and Leavitt said the park will begin booking tours for the 2012-13 school year in August.

Families can visit the park for free from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Sunday. For more information, call 455-7522.

The Springs Preserve has been one of the most popular field trip destinations since opening in 2007. The Springs Preserve offers teacher workshops that, upon completion, allow teachers to bring their students on free, self-guided tours at the facility. The free workshops last about two hours.

The next workshop is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. March 10. To register, call 822-7748.

The Springs Preserve also offers two-hour field trip tours that explore areas such as animals, sustainability, water conservation, plants and archaeology. The tours are age-appropriate for kindergarten through 12th grade.

For more information, visit

The Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay, 3950 Las Vegas Blvd. South, offers students a reprieve from the desert landscape. More than 17,000 of them got to see marine life up close last school year.

Aquarium director Adrienne Rowland said students learn about the animals, habitats, food chains and more. High school students even learn about careers in biology. All the activities align with students' age-appropriate science curriculum, Rowland said.

"Ultimately, it's about educating kids in the middle of the desert that would not have a chance otherwise to view these creatures that live as far away as Indonesia and Australia," Rowland said.

Field trips are free to school district students, and registration usually begins in August. Private schools also can reserve tours for $60, covering up to 30 students and five chaperones.

Once field trips are booked, teachers will have access to pre- and post-curriculum materials on the website. For more information, visit or call 632-4555.

Contact View education reporter Jeff Mosier at or 224-5524.

Other field trip possibilities
Lied Discovery Children's Museum, 833 Las Vegas Blvd. North, 382-5437
Anderson Dairy, 801 Searles Ave., 642-7507, ext. 264
Dolphin Habitat at The Mirage, 3400 Las Vegas Blvd. South, 792-7980
Clark County Museum, 1830 S. Boulder Highway, 455-7955
Las Vegas Natural History Museum, 900 Las Vegas Blvd. North, 384-3466
Bonnie Springs Ranch, 1 Gunfighter Lane, Blue Diamond, 875-4191
Gilcrease Orchard, 8103 Racel St., 839-2445
Las Vegas Ski & Snowboard Resort Snow Day program, 6725 Lee Canyon Road,