Your students are aching to put down their books and enjoy a hands-on experience! The best way to remember content is with activities, adventures, and excursions. Fortunately, there are dozens of places in Birmingham to do this. It doesn’t matter what grade you teach or what your course materials are, there are great field trip options right around the corner.
Load up the students in a school bus and check out these 20 STEAM field trip destinations in Birmingham and surrounding areas.
The Birmingham Zoo welcomes students of all ages (including high school seniors) to enjoy hands-on activities related to biology and conservation. Check out their online field trip guide to understand the costs, options, and specialties. There are special events that your students might like, including Career Day and STEM Day. Talk to the booking coordinator about your specific goals with this field trip.
McWane Science Center
The McWane Science Center developed its student field trips with the Alabama Course of Study Standards and the National Science Education Standards in mind. Their exhibits, IMAX films, and educational programs are constantly changing, so keep an eye out for something that matches your curriculum or specific student topics. The center celebrates various holidays and weeks throughout the year with special programs. A few of these include National Chemistry Week, Mole Day, Computer Science Education Week, and Engineering Week.
As an added bonus, check out the McWane Science Center Education Scholarship Fund available to qualifying schools to offset the costs of bringing your students there.
Alabama Sports Hall of Fame and Museum
Field trips are a great way for teachers to connect classroom subjects to the interests and hobbies of their students. The Alabama Sports Hall of Fame and Museum provides the perfect opportunity to do this. The museum’s educational program is designed for students in grades 3-8 and covers a variety of subjects. Students can complete mathematical equations, learn about geography, and take a tour with a focus on character development. There’s even an educational trivia hunt.
Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum
Schedule a visit to the largest motorcycle collection in the world and give your students a field trip they will never forget. The Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum offers different tours for your class. Roll through history and learn how and why motorcycles were developed, or focus on the engineering, science, and math of motorcycle racing. Teachers can also add activities like virtual motorbike racing, build-a-bike activities, or diagnose-a-bike where students work together to discover who owned the bike.
Birmingham Botanical Gardens
Most of the field trips offered by the Birmingham Botanical Gardens are meant for students in grades 1-6; however, there are some options for students in grades 7 and 8. Field trips can focus on life science aspects including how trees grow and why animals need plants and insects, or discuss how Native Americans used natural resources and learn about Dr. George Washington Carver (complete with simulations of the nitrogen cycle and peanut harvesting).
Aldridge Botanical Gardens
Another outdoor field trip alternative for elementary students is Aldridge Botanical Gardens. Here, students can get a “worm’s-eye view of soil” or learn about the trees in the area and the important role they play in our environment. There are also math elements with data collection and analysis. These field trips can be adapted to students for any class or curriculum.
Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark
What operated as an iron-producing blast furnace from 1882 to 1971 is now an official industrial landmark. Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark offers two options for students visiting on a field trip. The first choice is a guided tour, where students spend an hour learning how the furnaces worked, what ingredients were needed, and what a blast furnace is. The second choice includes the first, but also includes an iron pour where students make very own piece of cast iron art. They also visit the metal arts foundry. The second option is a great way to bring art into the science of iron work, creating a full STEAM experience.
Vulcan Park and Museum
While Vulcan Park and Museum emphasizes social studies, history, and fine arts as its main focus for field trips, there are certainly STEM elements that make this place worth a visit. During a guided tour of the museum, students meet historic figures (played by actors) who revolutionized the city, such as Giuseppe Moretti and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Teachers can add an Industrialization and Environmental segment to the tour, where students learn about the plant life and geology of the area, and how iron ore mines built up Birmingham.
Southern Museum of Flight
The Southern Museum of Flight is an affordable field trip option and a great choice for STEAM lessons related to engineering and innovation. Teachers can choose a self-guided or guided tour, or a guided tour with an activity. Students will love exploring the planes and even trying their hand at flying in the Flight Simulator Lab. Ask about tailoring your tour to specific eras, which include a Black History tour, a World War I tour, or a Cold War tour. You can also focus on math, science, or arts. Trips are available for students through high school.
Birmingham Museum of Art
The Birmingham Museum of Art has five different tours that cater to specific grade levels but also gives teachers the opportunity to tailor their tours to their lessons. This means you can book at tour with a STEAM focus that correlates to your grades and classes. Younger students can take an Art Safari and learn about animals in art, while older students can learn about various cultures and why they use art. You can also book studio lessons with hands-on art classes.
Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame
Speaking of arts in STEAM lessons, students can learn about the history of jazz and the math behind musical performance at the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame. Students can explore the museum and learn about the folk beginnings of jazz and how it developed into the movement that is popular today. The Hall has other programs that might interest teachers, including camps and instrument donation programs for underserved students.
The Southern Environmental Center
The Southern Environmental Center at Birmingham-Southern College has an interactive museum for students and an EcoScape garden that helps students learn about environmental threats like water quality issues, smog, and sprawl. This center is a great location for education and action, showing students how they can use their STEAM skills to identify problems in their community and then take steps to develop programs that solve them.
Birmingham Civil Rights Institute
The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute prides itself on preserving the historic documents and artifacts of the civil rights fight in the city. Due to this care, it’s an ideal place for student field trips related to Black History Month or Women’s History Month. Use the visit as a learning experience when discussing famous black inventors and trailblazers in your classroom and give your students space to explore them further.
Birmingham Children’s Theatre
The Birmingham Children’s Theatre allows students to discover how they can explore thoughts and ideas through art. Past shows have included “Alice in Wonderland” (with a post-industrial twist), “Charlotte’s Web,” and “Tiny Tyke Tales.” Students can also attend camps or try activities designed to tap into their creativity and imagination, while learning the technical aspects of putting on a show.
Heart of Dixie Railroad Museum
If you’re covering lessons related to railroad history, infrastructure building, or engineering, consider the Heart of Dixie Railroad Museum for your next field trip. This museum is free and located in Calera, 30 minutes south of Birmingham. It has an expansive amount of train memorabilia, including standard gauge and narrow gauge trains, restored depots, and various train cars and parts to explore. Train rides are available on Saturdays for a fee, but field trips and charter groups can get a special price and schedule a Thursday morning trip by contacting (205) 668-3435.
Oak Mountain State Park
Located just 30 minutes south of Birmingham, Oak Mountain State Park has camping, hiking, lakes, and a petting zoo. The Alabama Wildlife Center cares for and rehabilitates local wildlife in the park, and students can keep an eye out for birds and other animals on the Tree Top Nature Trail. The park also has a 2,500 square foot interactive exhibit space and teaching laboratory for classes learning about local flora and fauna. Just make sure you save some time for hiking. At 9,940 acres, Oak Mountain is Alabama’s largest state park.
Less than an hour south west of Birmingham in Childersburg is DeSoto Caverns, Alabama’s biggest cave with dozens of attractions and educational opportunities surrounding it. Students can go underground and learn about geology, history, artifacts, and fossils found in the cave. There are more than 2,000 years of history in DeSoto Caverns, bringing to life events from the exploration of America to the Civil War and Prohibition. You can cater the tour to your subject, budget, or time constraints.
Tannehill Ironworks Historical State Park
If you’re looking to combine nature, history, and engineering, consider a visit to Tannehill Ironworks Historical State Park and the Iron and Steel Museum of Alabama. This field trip location is in McCalla, 30 minutes southwest of Birmingham proper. Tannehill is the birthplace of Alabama’s iron and steel district. Students can explore the nature of the area for a biological focus or learn about the history of the area and how the minerals impacted the industry and story of Alabama. Fees to attend can be waived for student bodies predominantly eligible for free or reduced lunches.
Rickwood Caverns State Park
Teachers north of Birmingham might consider Rickwood Caverns State Park for their top STEAM field trip of choice. Students can participate in a cave tour (complete with geocaching) and gem mining experience and then enjoy a picnic lunch. There are plenty of trails for hiking, which means you can turn this into a half-day or full-day excursion.
Red Mountain Park
Connect with nature and have fun at Red Mountain Park. Students can ride through seven zip lines and a rope swing or challenge themselves with 20 treetop rope and cable obstacles. One great activity for school trips is the team building challenge, where students work together to solve problems and overcome challenges they couldn’t do alone. There are also more than 15 miles of walking, hiking, and mountain biking trails in the park, so your class can explore nature and the beauty of Birmingham.