Students running wild, transit snafus, missing chaperones. This doesn’t have to be the scenario for your field trips. Planning is everything, and there are ways to make a trip not only tolerable but fun and educational. Read on for key tips to winning outings.

Schedule ahead of time: Do it way ahead of time. If you don’t, your ideal venue—a museum, a historical site,
a chocolate factory—may be booked.

Check in beforehand: “What school are you from again?” Contact the venue the day before to make sure they know the number of students arriving, any special needs, and your expected arrival time. Also, find out the name
of the guide and tell your class.

Plot out transportation: Scope out your route in advance—don’t leave it to the driver. With private transport, confirm the reservation the day before. If you’re going by public transportation, instruct students to bring something to read, write, or draw. Kids with nothing to do but talk will get wild very quickly.

Identify pit stops: When I take my class on public transportation, I make sure I’ve identified an en route pit stop. On a long bus ride, work out with the driver where you can make an emergency stop.

Check the weather: Bad conditions can drastically alter your time frame, or even cause the trip to be canceled. You should have a Plan B ready, whether that means altering the field trip to take account of inclement weather or doing something fun in class to make up for the cancellation.

Choose the right chaperones: Think about which parents you want along based on the type of trip. For a three-day overnight, you’ll want adults who are competent and very committed. For a walk around the block, invite whomever you want (a good way to road-test a potential chaperone).

Front-load students: Telling students to “look” isn’t enough. If you want them to ask questions, prep them. Make a list of questions the day before, then bring it along to inspire other questions. Being prepared will make the kids wiser and more curious participants. With younger ones, rehearse expectations. Are there objects they cannot touch or that you want them to interact with? Review the rules the day before, and the morning of, the trip.

Pack energy: If you’re going for a full day, don’t depend on lunch alone. Kids will crash earlier than you think. Bring snacks. And bringing a coffee for the driver could mean a smoother ride.

Carry contacts: You may need to call a family member of a student, so carry all necessary phone numbers. Give a copy to a trusted chaperone.

Finally, be ready for the unexpected teaching moment. Go with a plan, but be open to possibilities that could make your next trip even better!

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Illustration: John W. Tomac