Planning Field Trips

By Brent Vasicek on March 19, 2012
  • Grades: 1–2, 3–5

Spring has sprung!  The eyes of the students gaze more and more frequently toward the sunshine that lies just outside the classroom windows. As a teacher you know the brain remembers best when it is making connections to the real world. It’s time to get those brains out of the classroom and into that real world.  It’s time for a field trip! Organization and management are key ingredients to a successful and educational experience. 

 

Decisions, Decisions

There are several factors to consider when choosing where to go. Safety, educational value, and expense top the list.

Where do I go? Teachers are often the best resource for feedback on quality trips that meet state or national standards. Ask teachers in your building or district where they take their students. If that source seems to be a dead end, then scroll through the science and social studies requirements for your grade level. Think of places of interest that are nearby.  Make sure whichever place you choose can accommodate your grade level and any students you have with special needs. For more springtime trip ideas, read this Scholastic printable.

Tip: Instead of throwing the ever accumulating field trip flyers into the trash, put the flyers into a folder. This way, when it comes time to find a fresh field trip, you have many resources at your fingertips.

How much does it cost?  Cost is an important factor. Be sure to take into consideration your student demographics. Will all students be able to attend? Will the school pick up the cost for students that might not be able to afford the trip? How much will the transportation cost?

Just because a field trip seems a bit expensive, don’t count it out! Try these ideas:

  • Negotiate with the facility for a discounted group rate. The most they can do is say no.
  • Ask the parent organization in your school or the principal to help defer the cost.
  • Hold a fundraiser. For ideas, read the Scholastic Parents article "5 Innovative School Fundraising Ideas."
  • Apply for a grant such as this one from Target.

Tip: The more expensive the trip, the more notice families require.

 

Checklists

There are many details involved in taking students on a field trip. The checklists below will ensure that you have thought of everything.

Planning Checklist

  • Consult school calendar to ensure no conflicts.
  • Submit approval to administration.
  • Secure transportation and confirm the transportation a few days prior to the trip.
  • Notify food services so the inventories can be adjusted or lunches can be packed and sent with the class.
  • Send a note home reserving the date as soon as you have secured approval. This allows parents to start saving money and to reserve the day off if they're chaperoning the event.
  • Send permission slips home at least one month in advance. Give the parents about a week’s window to get them returned.  Expect last minute adjustments.  

Above and beyond:

  • Go to the destination in advance and create a scavenger hunt. This is not only fun and educational, but an appreciated management tool for the chaperones.
  • Plant seeds of prior knowledge. Perhaps the trip is the culminating event in a unit or perhaps it is the kickoff event.  Regardless, make sure the students have some prior knowledge so that they can make valid connections between the real world and the curriculum. 

Tip:  Find a short story that will provide some good discussion before you go.

Chaperones Checklist

  • Notify chaperones in advance, outlining their duties and your expectations (e.g., time to show up, attire, extra items to bring).
  • Provide chaperones with name tags. Names should be written with a large font and in marker.  Tip:  On the bottom of each name tag, I write the names of the students they are responsible for in small letters so they know exactly for whom they are responsible.
  • Think of lunch transportation. Will the students carry their own, or will the chaperones have a large, reusable grocery bag / backpack in which to carry the lunches?
  • Students should have name tags as well for the benefit of the chaperones, docents, or activity facilitators. On the name tag I put the school phone number in case of emergency.
  • Do not assign yourself as a chaperone if at all possible. You should be available to handle any unexpected situations (sick children, behavior problems, missing lunches, etc.) that arise.

Teacher Checklist

Make sure you have the following things with you before you leave:

  • All permission slips and emergency numbers for students.
  • Class list and a list of assigned chaperones. Take attendance frequently! As a general rule, take attendence anytime the group changes activities, buildings, or boards a bus.
  • Band-Aids; Extra lunch items (i.e., granola bars, chips, apples, sandwich, water).
  • A credit card for emergencies.
  • Cell phone.
  • Camera or camcorder.  Tip: If you have extra chaperones, put one in charge of documenting the trip on film.
  • Medication, EpiPens, diabetic supplies.
  • A list of rules and expectations. Go over them with the students before even leaving school.

The Bus Ride

If the bus ride is lengthy, have some activities for the students to do. Check with the bus driver first before doing any of these activities.

  • Sing some good old camp songs. Search YouTube for some ideas.  
  • Using the bus driver’s public address system, be a bingo caller and play some math bingo.
  • If this trip is in celebration of completing a unit, use a study guide or a test to come up with trivia questions.  Play a trivia game: left half of the bus versus the right half.

Post-Trip

Cement the learning from the trip with a post-trip discussion. Then have the students practice their writing skills by journaling about what they learned and writing thank you notes to the facility, your principal, the people who donated money to the trip, and chaperones. 

What grade do you teach, and what is your favorite field trip destination? 

Happy spring,

Brent

2i2 is a trademark of Mr. Vasicek’s class. www.mrvasicek.com

Comments

Our school is located in a gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, so we are known as a Parks as Classroom school. The majority of our field trips are directly connected to the Park. We have a Director who coordinates our field trips and makes arrangements, so our teachers are lucky in that they don't have to do a lot of pre-planning. In 2nd grade in the fall, we go on a hike, where the rangers lead small groups in the history of the area, with lessons on how the mountain people lived, worked, and played.All field trips have a pre-test and a post-test to measure knowledge. Other grade levels do overnight trips to the Environmental Center, go fly-fishing, visit cabins, and hunt and research insects, among other activities. Parks as Classroom is a wonderful program, and exposes the students to many aspects of a National Park, while guiding them to be lifelong stewards of the treasure that is truly their backyard.

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