You are taking 20 second-graders on a field trip to the museum. Johnny still hasn't turned in his permission slip; Mary forgot her lunch; Susie and Tommy get motion sickness when they ride in a bus for long distances.
Your worst nightmare or an educational opportunity for your students to discover the world and broaden their horizons?
You can make that call by following some guidelines for careful planning and managing a field trip:
- Make sure students have a sense of purpose and are prepared to find answers to questions you've raised in the classroom.
- Evaluate your field trip destination by going over these questions:
- How does this field trip tie into your curriculum goals?
- When is the site open?
- How far is it from school? How are you going to get there?
- Does the site offer any special events you can take advantage of?
- How much time do you need for this trip?
- Do you need to bring any special supplies or equipment?
- How much will this trip cost each student and who is paying for it?
- How many adults will you need as chaperones?
- Be sure to check with the field trip policy in your district and/or building. If the policy is vague, check with your mentor and other teachers to see how to handle a field trip. Listen to their horror stories about the worst field trip they ever took and learn from their mistakes.
- Deal with logistical and discipline-related problems with advance planning.
- Get administrative approval before announcing the trip to your students.
- Avoid scheduling field trips on Mondays. Weekends give students two days to forget to bring their spending money or lunches.
- Recruit, screen and instruct parent chaperones. Send a note home before the trip so parents know what your rules are and what their roles are. Make sure you have enough chaperones to supervise the students.
- Try to divide students into task groups. Each group should have a specific responsibility such as keeping records or getting supplies for the trip.
- Try to find a spot for the field trip that is interesting. If you're tired of going to the sewage plant each year, so are the students.
- Take everyone, including the troublemakers. Leaving someone behind could lead to even more discipline problems.
- Make sure you have permission slips for each student. This protects the students and you. Know the district policy about liability.
- Use name tags with the student's name, the school name, bus number, etc. Having this kind of identification is helpful when your head count is short one student.
- If you have children in your class that take medication, be sure to inform the school nurse about your trip. Students that require a daily medication or cannot self-medicate, will need the school nurse or their parent/guardian to attend the trip in order to administer the medication. If such arrangements cannot be made, it may be necessary to cancel the trip.
- Don't forget to let the transportation department, the school secretary and any other involved staff know about the field trip.
- Don't make assumptions about anything-be prepared for everything!