The Best Places for Field Trips for Students With Disabilities
Have you ever wondered where you can take your students with disabilities and feel completely comfortable and accepted by the community?
Everything here is hands on! Let your students touch and grab, push and pull, roll and throw. This is a place where everyone is loud, messy, and free to be! The space is ADA-compliant and very diverse-populations friendly. There are areas where different subject areas can be explored. There are structured and unstructured activities, supporting students who have preferences for complete structure and those who like to stretch their creative muscles! The Thinkery also offers opportunities for wonderful social intereactions with others students and adults, as well as opportunities to build self-confidence and self-determination by trying new things!
Tuesdays before 2:00 p.m. are opportune times to give your students with disabilities a chance to try out a movie in a public theater. Alamo calls this "Baby Day", where people are allowed to bring infants to the movies. The lights are not completely darkened, and the volume of the movie sound is slightly lower than in a regular theater. Alamo provides a restaurant atmosphere, complete with comfy seating, as well as food, and drink for all ages. Students with disabilities can make noise, move around, and be themselves while learning how to visit a public movie theater. The food is awesome, and the prices are affordable.
Umlauf Sculpture Garden
This outdoor museum is home to some amazing bronze sculptures. The outdoor atmosphere allows for movement and noise from students with disabilities, while also providing peace, quiet, and a multi-sensory experience. Students can touch the sculptures. This is a big plus! There are benches, restrooms, and water fountains that make the Umlauf Sculpture Garden very friendly for students who might need these facilities in the midst of community based learning field trips. The docents are helpful and willing to give information that would be interesting to all types of students and staff exploring the sculptures. The best times to visit are in the spring and the fall.
Zilker Park Playscape
Zilker Park Playscape is a fantastic place for students with disabilities to explore gross and fine motor movement planning, balance, and spatial awareness. There are spots for small children upon which to play, and there are larger, sturdier objects on the playscapes where adult-sized students with disabilities can play. There is a covered pavilion, tables and benches, a food stand with fast food options (not many healthy choices, though!), and the Zilker Zephyr. The Zephyr is a train that runs around the entirety of the Zilker Park, and this is an added attraction to the Zilker Park Playscape area. There is great parking for vans and busses.
Austin Nature and Science Center
Based near the Zilker Park Hike and Bike Trail at the northwest end of Zilker Park, the Austin Nature and Science Center is a hidden gem. The entire center is covered in native plants, shrubs, and trees, providing beautiful views and much-needed shade during the hot Austin summers. The Austing Nature and Science Center offers both indoor and outdoor opportunities for learning and exploration. There is a learning and trading center when students with disabilities can get hands-on experience with a variety of science and nature-related objects like fossils, minerals, and native animal pelts. There are live animals to watch, trails for hiking, and a huge sand pit for digging. This place is great for groups of students with diverse interests.
Although the Quarry Splashpad is not exactly in Austin proper (it is in Leander...a short train ride or car ride 20 minutes to the northwest of Austin), it is well worth the trip for students with disabilities. The water works around this entire splash pad offer multi-sensory experiences for students with all needs and preferences. There are places where students can sit in shallow, gently-flowing water, as well as areas where water cannons shoot water out with firehose-like pressure. There are pavilions available for reserve, and there are many covered areas for picnicing and relaxing. Bathrooms are available, as well as a small concession stand, so students with disabilities have access to these facilities quickly.
This place is made for students who need vestibular stimulation and lots of time to explore their place in space. This is an all-ages situation, where students 8 years old and up can enjoy the joys of jumping and hopping around at will. There are party rooms available, tables and chairs for resting, restrooms for paying customers, and concessions available. This is an affordable place for a group field trip, where opportunities for confidence building and physical freedom can be explored. The prices per student are affordable, and the space is vast. There are giant slides and obstacle courses that kepp everyone occupied. Take your kids and JUMP!
Baylor Street Art Wall
For those of you daring enough to let your students get messy with paint, this is THE place for you and your class! Bring water-soluable tempera paints, and let your students' imaginations (and hands!) run wild with color. This is a more primitive site, not offering amenities like public restrooms or water fountains, but, for a nice, outdoor place for students who need room to move and space to make noise, Baylor Street Art Wall is the real deal. There are tables and benches for resting and eating a picnic, if you so desire. The art changes frequently, so frequent return trips always offer something a little different. Interactive and free...definitely two words that define Baylor Street Art Wall.
Cathedral of Junk
What a cool way to spend an afternoon! There are tons and tons of items to see and touch. For your more daring students and staff, this place offers a climb up three stories of junk. See everything from old telephones and computers to bicycle parts, bathtubs, and musical instruments that comprise this unique Austin landmark. Again, this is an outdoor venue, so students who like to make noise can feel free to do so. Very visually stimulating. The only caveats are that 1) the owner requires an appointment for any and all visitors, and 2) the cost is $10 per group.
A great local bowling alley with the tastiest truck-stop enchiladas and greasy cheeseburgers that also caters to students with disabilities. The place is loud and large, providing ample space between lanes for students who need to make noise and who need space to move. Special adaptations like automatic bumpers, bowling ramps, and light-weight bowling balls are all available at Dart Bowl. The staff is friendly and helpful, especially when setting up the bumpers and scorecards! There are multiple restrooms at Dart Bowl, as well as a restaurant inside of the bowling alley, where eating can be done is a quieter atmosphere than in the bowling area. Bring your students and have a ball!
Austin is a place full of events and adventures for students with disabilities. Take a chance at some of these places on this list. You and your students will have a blast!