October is National Go on a Field Trip Month

October 28, 2009 - 4:48pm — GettingOutside
Field Trip at the Grand Canyon

It’s never too late to plan a field trip for your favorite students, your own kids or your nieces and nephews. Field trips provide educational opportunities that stay with a kid for a lifetime, yet they feel more like fun than school work.

Who doesn’t remember that trip to their first historical battlefield or fort? Who can forget that school trip to the zoo or the scouting nature walk where a guide identified all the edible plants? How about that trip to the museum where you saw your first real serious art or your first Mastodon?

Five Best Practices and Tips for Planning a Successful Field Trip

Need to plan a fun yet safe field trip? These tips will help you to plan your next field trip whether you’re a teacher taking a large classroom or a parent taking a bunch of neighborhood kids, whether you’re a scoutmaster taking boy scouts or girls scouts or whether you’re an au pair trying to plan a retreat for you and your charges.

1. Do Your Homework. Research the destination, first. For outdoor destinations, you can do a lot of research on GettingOutside.com, but it still makes a lot of sense to call and ask venue staff for their suggestions. Visit their website and download and/or printout any literature (see Tip #2).

When you call to set up your field trip, discuss cost and possible discounts, number of students, dates and times. Ask about guided tours or self guided tours. Ask about restrooms and eating facilities. Determine whether your kids should pack a lunch or whether they (or you) should bring money. You might also inquire to see if there's a public address system that you can make an announcement to gather your kids at the end of the day.

2. Teach Your Kids About Your Field Trip Destination. You’ve done the research, now put it together into a lesson plan and get the kids involved in really learning about wherever they are going. You should give them the historical background, help them to give the site a location using maps and other teaching aids, show them images and even documentaries if you can find them.

The National Park Service put together some wonderful field trip lesson plans you can use at a variety of historic sites. Even if you can’t find your specific field trip destination there, you’ll get a great idea of what to include in your own field trip lesson plan.

Discuss what will happen on the trip, what they’ll see. Let them know why you’re going to the particular place and its significance. If you’re going to a museum, you can talk about various exhibits. Put the trip in a larger context. The more they know ahead of time, the more they’ll enjoy the field trip.

3. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate. Make sure you have signed permission slips and emergency numbers from the parents of all children coming along. Put together an agenda with timelines that you can share with all parents and children. If you don’t have a cell phone, make sure you have one for the trip and share the number with any parents and school officials (both those going with you and those who only have children going with you.) If your kids have cell phones, get those numbers too. Make a list for easy reference.

4. Identify Your Kids. Print out colorful name tags for your kids to wear. Use one color to make them easier to pick out of a crowd. Along with their names, your name, cell number and group affiliation should be printed. If you really want to be fancy, you can put the child’s name on the back side, so strangers can’t learn their name easily.

Another great way to make it easier to pick your kids out of crowd is to get them all to wear the same color shirts. If they have school shirts, these are usually the best. Or they can all wear school ball caps of the same color. Also, you can ask that everyone tie a bandanna of the same color around their neck.

5. Count, Count, Accountability. Make sure you count all your kids at every transition, and share responsibility with your adult partners and the children. If you have chaperones along, make sure they count too.

Assign buddies. The buddy system works well. You might put them in teams of three, making sure they understand they are all responsible for one another, and for the count. Assign a Forward Team and a Sweeper Team and make sure that everyone understands that no one can go in front of the Forwards nor in back of the Sweepers. (These should be your most responsible and mature kids.)

And that’s it. You also might want to bring a backpack with first aid stuff, a camera (get each kid in at least one picture), and stuff to occupy the kids in case the bus is late, like crayons and paper – have them draw a pictorial story of their favorite part of the field trip. Another possible item bring is a cooler with wheels, depending on the trip logistics, to carry refreshments and ice.

If you can follow these basics, you should have a really fun and really safe field trip.

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