A Teacher’s Guide to Planning a Successful and Educational Field Trip
Field trips are probably the number one thing that students look forward to each school year. It’s a day off from learning in the classroom, it’s fun to take bus trips with classmates, and it’s enjoyable and entertaining to visit a new place. Some teachers really enjoy planning field trips while others find it less than pleasant, but the fact of the matter is that a good bit of planning and preparation must go into every field trip in order to ensure it’s both successful and educational.
Think About the Why
Before you even begin planning the logistics, you need to think about the “why” of the school field trip. Why are you planning one? Why are the places you’re thinking about going to good choices? Asking yourself these types of questions will help you narrow down the ideal location for your field trip, and will allow you to make the most of the entire field trip. What do you hope your students will gain from this field trip? What do you want them to take away from the experience? How will this school field trip benefit them more than a day in the classroom? Remember that all field trips are learning opportunities. Giving students a chance to be in a new location and have hands-on experiences will help them absorb and retain information more than listening to a lecture in a classroom. Is the purpose of the field trip to teach something new, reinforce something they have already learned, or simply give them an enjoyable day of hands-on learning?
Pick the Right Location
Once you’ve established why you’re planning a school field trip and what you hope your students to gain from the experience, you should be able to narrow down your location ideas. In order for a field trip to be both educational and enjoyable, you need to find the right balance of fun and instructive locations. Certain museums might bring about the perfect blend of pleasure and learning, while others may leave students rolling their eyes in boredom and counting the moments before they get back on the bus. At the same time, you don’t just want to focus on the students having fun and ignore that fact that it’s a school day and they should still be getting some sort of educational instruction. Get in contact with a few places you’re considering and ask them about what they offer for school field trips. Some will do tours or provide little classes or workshops, while others offer discounts for large groups. Be sure that whatever location you decide on will help you get to the ultimate goal of having a successful and educational field trip and that your students will benefit from.
Talk to Administration
Field trips need to approval from school administrations, so you need to have a conversation with them before you book or finalize anything. Some schools and school districts may even have pre-approved lists of school field trip destinations that you can utilize for ideas, while others may limit you to a pre-selected list of locations that you have to choose from. Either way, be sure to have a conversation with your school administration and fill out any required paperwork regarding the logistics of the field trip, possibly including the educational goals associated with the location.
Book the Trip & Lock in Chaperones
Once you’ve received approval from your superiors, lock in the date and rate for your school field trip. Talk about any other logistics with the staff at your destination, and then begin communicating with parents and looking for chaperones. If you are organizing a field trip for an entire grade level, sit down with the other teachers in that grade level and make a plan for how many chaperones you need and how you will request and keep track of them. You will need to figure out how many chaperones you need based on the number of students you have and their ages (younger students will require more supervision and therefore more chaperones). You may also be able to bring along other staff members from the school, such as support teachers, electives or specials teachers, and more.
Create Rules & Guidelines
General school rules should be abided by on any school trip, but students often need to be reminded of the school rules before a school field trip. Remind all students of the rules they are expected to follow and be sure to inform them of any new rules that are specific to this field trip, such as don’t feed the animals at the zoo or don’t touch anything at the museum. Find out what rules the field trip destination has for their visitors and be sure to inform students of those rules in advance. Be sure to clarify rules about lunch time at the school field trip location, if money is to be brought along and how it is to be spent, any regulations for visiting gift shops, and more. If you plan to group your students in a particular way for the chaperone groups, be sure to have a conversation about that before the day of the field trip as well.
Outline Learning Expectations
Most students know and understand that they are expected to learn something on a school field trip, but many won’t willingly do so unless you outline your expectations clearly. If the students will be required to take notes, fill out a worksheet, or write a report after the field trip, let them know that ahead of time. If they need to record observations, take a certain number of tours, or visit a specific number of exhibits, talk to them about it before you go. Being clear about your expectations will help your students meet the standards more easily and willingly, and it will allow you to have a more successful and educational field trip. It is almost important to talk to your students about what you hope they will learn on the school field trip and how that learning relates to what you are studying in the classroom. If they can see the relevance or the connection, they will be more likely to be attentive to learning opportunities and they are more likely to learn and retain more during the field trip.
You may wish to plan activities to do before the field trip, during it, or after it. This could be coming up with a list of questions to ask on the school field trip, doing a scavenger hunt during the field trip, or responding to thought-provoking questions after it’s over. Know ahead of time what activities you’re going to do that are associated with the trip and have students planned and prepared as early as possible. Make sure students know what will be expected of them in terms of completing a school field trip-related assignment, particularly when they should complete it and when it will be due. Talk to the staff at the location regarding activities as well, as they may be able to provide you with some ideas or they may have pre-made lessons or worksheets that are perfect for your students.
Organize Post-Trip Discussions & Evaluations
It’s always good to debrief after a school field trip. Touch base with your original expectations to ensure your students learned what you wanted them to, and evaluate the educational aspects of the field trip to know if it’s a trip worth repeating in the future. If you are requiring students to write something after the school field trip, make class time the following day to discuss the trip and any questions they may have about their assignment. You may also consider giving your students a post-field trip survey to gauge how much they learned and how much they enjoyed themselves, which will again give you insight as to whether or not to take another class on the same field trip in the future.