9 Places to Visit With Your
Life Skills Special Ed Class

people crossing street


Going off-campus with your students is important for any community-based high school or transition SPED program.

This is a way for them to practice their life skills. If you’re lucky, you can go off-campus with students weekly (or even daily!)

But other than trips you repeat frequently, like your vocational placements for students, what are the meaningful places to visit in the community for your community-based instruction?

What is Community-Based Instruction

Alright, let’s start with the basics. Community-Based Instruction (CBI) means taking the classroom beyond its walls and into the real world. 

But note that a community outing is different from a field trip. While a field trip is more about fun, CBI is more meaningful because its objective aligns with the students’ IEP goals of increased independence in the community.

CBI is a valuable learning tool for special education students because it provides real-life practice when teaching our students about important life skills in everyday settings.

By doing this, we empower our students to be more independent and confident, preparing them for life after school.

What Meaningful Places
Can You Visit in the Community?

Racking your brain for an idea of where to go next for your life skills lesson? Here are some awesome places to explore with your students.

#1: Campus Community


Okay. I know we’re mainly talking about going off-campus. So why did I include the campus community?

Well, when you begin your community-based instruction, I think it’s best to start with the one closest to you, and that is your school.

Consider it a mini city!

Have your students interact with places and people that they don’t regularly see in school. This is like their practice before they go off-campus.

Where to go:

  • Nurse’s clinic
  • Cafeteria or food service area
  • Administrative offices
  • Maintenance room

When you go to these places, address basic skills like communicating with others and navigating safely with independence. You can use this opportunity to learn more about just how safe your students are before exploring further from campus, and develop appropriate safety protocols from there.

#2: Grocery Store

Woman grocery shopping

Time to learn about budgeting, shopping, and healthy choices! The grocery store is usually the easiest and quickest trip for your transition students. (I wrote all about how I do a weekly grocery trip here.)

There are so many ways to incorporate life skill lessons while also running errands like shopping for your weekly cooking activity. 

Enhance your CBI by having your students do activities about grocery shopping prior to your trip.

Try out this Grocery Skills Weekly Reusable Bundle. This includes recipe ideas, recipe voting templates, grocery lists, and activities that let your students practice their money math skills and functional reading skills.

And if you don’t have funds for grocery shopping, well, that’s not a big problem! You can still make your grocery trip worthwhile by doing grocery readings & scavenger hunts.

Make a list of items to search for and have students write down the prices. Then, when you go back to school, you can have them calculate how much they’d need to buy those items.

#3: Retail Stores

Aside from the grocery store, you can try local businesses and retail stores like:

  • Department store
  • Dollar store
  • Pharmacy
  • Hardware
  • Craft store
  • Convenience store

The obvious purpose of this is to practice your student’s consumer and functional money skills because they’ll be learning how to purchase whatever items they need. You can even use this group of readings, math activities and scavenger hunts as you learn about each store!

But did you know that this can also help your students explore different job roles and potential careers? Who knows, you might find the next big entrepreneur in your group!

As a prep or follow-up activity, use this interactive Would You Rather Shopping Activity for teaching community shopping skills and life skills to your special education students.

#4: Subway and Bus Stations

Have a public transit system where you live? Get ready for a trip on buses and trains!

Navigating public transit is an essential skill for independent living. Take your students to the nearest bus or train station and teach them about using public transportation.

What lessons will they learn?

  • Reading maps and bus schedules
  • Finding the best routes to get to a location
  • Paying for tickets
  • Being aware of the correct stops
  • Travel safety

Of course, before actually heading off to these stations, it’s best to prep your special education students with safety rules when using public transit. Check out these Public Transit CBI Problem Solving Task Cards!

You can also pick a walking or public transit destination and have students locate it (in real time) by using a navigation app. We used to do this in our classroom when we didn’t have money to spend out – make it fun by having students take a picture of the destination once they arrive!

#5: Going Out to Eat at Restaurants

woman at restaurant holds beef burger with lettuce tomato red onion and cheddar cheese

Whether you’d go to fast food or dine in at a restaurant is up to you and your budget. Either way, there are a lot of life skills your students can work on, including:

  • Deciding what to eat
  • Ordering correctly
  • Budgeting money
  • Paying for the meal (tip, tax, etc.)
  • Dining with some independence
  • Table etiquette
  • Social interactions

In my last school, we reserved Fridays for rotating field trips. We often would go out to eat to work on consumer skills.

We’d prepare for our trip by filling out a community trip spending plan so the students could look up the menu in advance and prepare for what they would order.

We’d also ensure that they had enough money in their wallets before leaving, so there’d be no surprises at the restaurant. If you want to check out all the resources I used with my class re:going out to eat, check out this bundle on restaurant skills!

#6: Laundromat or Clothing Store

Do you have a coin-operated laundry facility nearby? Visit it as well! This is a great way for students to practice doing their own laundry and learn how to independently take care of themselves in case they may need to.

Laundromats can also help students practice their money skills, as they learn the process of putting coins in and doing laundry. 

You can also take a trip to a local clothing or thrift store so students can work on identifying seasonal wear, formal wear, match dress codes, or identify sizes. Students can even pretend to shop following a designated budget! Check out all my Clothing Shopping resources here

Included is an animated video model on Clothing Shopping I created!

#7: Library or Bookstore

library with books

Have your students dive into the fascinating world of books and educational resources! If you have a public library or bookstore nearby, don’t forget to visit. These are also great places to look for games, music, videos and more. 

Your students can learn how to…

  • Register for a library card
  • Look for books / movies / music
  • Ask for help
  • Alphabetizing skills
  • Library etiquette
  • Check out their own books or movies (library)
  • Compare prices of items (store)

You can also teach students about the different jobs at the library or bookstore, and what they entail. This setting could be a great fit for one of your students!

#8: Park or Community Walk

Community Walk

Get outdoors! Your CBI can be a fun trip as well when you go to the park or get outside to explore your community!

What activities can you do in the Park?

  • Group games
  • Exercise
  • Lunch picnic
  • Socialization
  • Nature hunt

Or, you can also make it more of a vocational activity by adding community service to your outing, like having the students pick up some trash while at the park.

What activities can you do on a Community Walk?

  • Explore the neighborhood
  • Do a “community signs” scavenger hunt
  • Practice general community safety rules (crossing safely, etc)
  • Play the alphabet game  (“Can you find something that starts with the letter A? B?…”)
  • Identify stores and job titles of people within them

Community trips like these are great for days when you have good weather and need a no-cost option. 

#9: Post Office

Is it time for your students to learn about writing and mailing letters? Then the best application for this lesson is to have them actually send mail!

Start by watching this animated video model on sending and receiving mail to prep your students.

If you can communicate with another school to set up pen pals with their class, that would be perfect! Your students can write back and forth to practice their writing skills and learn how to interact with people through writing. 

Students can then practice going to the post office to hand deliver their mail (and even do a fun scavenger hunt)!

Preparing For Your CBI Trips

There you have it! 

I hope this list has given you an idea of where to visit for your community-based instruction.

The possibilities are endless! Just make sure that you’re prepared before you go off-campus by planning ahead and creating safety systems so you can have a worry-free community trip.

In addition, always get your students ready by learning about the place you’re going to visit! 

Community scavenger hunts are a great option, because you can pick a new location for each trip and students get to explore a new place in a fun and educational way.

Need help with more resources? 

You can use this printable, differentiated community places-themed MEGA BUNDLE! Every community place topic will have students work on their reading comprehension, learn life skills related vocabulary, practice money math, and work on community skills.

Go Out and Explore the Community

Community-based instruction is a beautiful tool we have readily available to us . . . just by stepping outside of the school building!  By visiting meaningful places in the community, your life skills and transition students can gain valuable skills each day they venture off campus.

Where will you take your students first?

girl reading map

Exploring what to teach your transition students, and overwhelmed by the endless ideas??

Remember that your units of focus will depend on your students’ needs; you can build your own curriculum map for the year by using this guide in conjunction with your students’ IEP goals. 

You can get the Transition Roadmap Scope & Sequence here!