How to Plan a Field Trip: A Step-by-Step Guide
How to Plan a Field Trip
Knowing exactly how to plan a field trip is a very important skill. For teachers that wish to take their students out of the classroom to experience some real-life learning, field trips can be a dream, or a nightmare, depending on how well they are planned.
It is no wonder that school boards have become increasingly cautious when it comes to allowing field trips. Afraid of litigation, administrators are slow to permit anything considered dangerous or risky.
Considering the current climate, it is especially important to plan carefully for all contingencies. Taking a large group of children or teenagers out to a public place is a somewhat complex task, and a large amount of planning needs to be done to make it successful.
Having planned many field trips myself, I am glad to share some of the things I have learned from these experiences. Plan your field trip correctly, and it can truly be a memorable and meaningful experience for everyone involved!
This article is about the practical aspect of how to plan a field trip. This guide is directed primarily at teachers, but the information could be adapted by daycare workers, recreation workers, home schoolers, parent volunteers, or even parents planning a special trip for their child and friends.
Steps To Planning a Field Trip
- Decide Where You are Going
- Ask Your Administrator
- Arrange for Transportation
- Decide On a Food Plan
- Plan Your Schedule
- Arrange Your Supervision
- Create a Permission Form
- Decide Who's Allowed To Go
- Tie in Your Field Trip to Your Curriculum
These are the steps you will need to cover for your field trip plan. The order of these steps may be different for you, but be sure to think about all of these points.
1. Decide Where You are Going
You may already know where you are going and can skip this step, but if not, do some brainstorming. Talk to colleagues who may also be involved with the trip, and try to come up with some ideas. Think about places that enhance and reinforce your curriculum goals. Do some quick research to see if these ideas are feasible. Check for cost, location and the services that the place offers. Also, check to make sure they are open on the day you are considering coming.
Once you have narrowed it down, talk to your colleagues again. You also may, depending on how much student input you allow, ask the students for their preferences. Explain that you can't promise anything, but you would like to get their ideas. Finally, decide on where you are going.
Talk To Your Principal
2. Ask Your Administrator
Next, you have to check with your administrator. Hopefully, you already know that you are allowed to have a field trip of some kind, but now you will have to run the specific idea past him. Jot some notes before you go to present the idea. Tell her why you want to go (that darn curriculum again), what dates you are thinking of, and what the cost will be.
She may say yes right away, but you may have to wait. When you get the go-ahead, fill out whatever forms are required for your school division. it may be asking for permission from the board, or it may be filling out a bus form. Just make sure all of that paperwork is done well ahead of time. This keeps your principal happy, which keeps you happy!
It is Important to Arrange Transportation!
3. Arrange for Transportation
First of all, we have to focus on some very basic things. You have to decide how you are going to get those little munchkins there and back, and how you are going to feed them. In most cases, it will be a bus, but with smaller groups, you may take staff vehicles. If it is very local, you may even walk to the destination.
If taking the bus or staff vehicles, it is important to fill out the required forms. NO BUS, NO TRIP! The transportation has to have the time to make sure they can find a driver and have an available bus. As well, they will need to know when your departing and coming back, because they may need those buses for other purposes.
4. Decide on a Food Plan
Decide on where you will eat, and when. Here are some different options:
- On site restaurant/cafeteria: Sometimes the facility will have a restaurant or cafeteria on-site. This makes for easier supervision, but you are not sure of the food quality. The facility may even offer a special for groups coming in, so check with them to see if they do. This would be an easy option, because it could be done up ahead, and would save on waiting time.
- Bring their own lunch: This is the cheapest option. The downfall to this can be that some kids don't bother to bring one, and are grouchy and irritable from not eating. The good part is that you don't have to worry about collecting the money, or waiting for people to order.
- Off-site restaurant: The advantage of this is that it is usually popular with students. The disadvantage is that it isn't healthy, and may make it harder to supervise. It can also eat up an inordinate amount of time if you have a big group.
- Before the Field Trip: Activities and Lessons To Prepare For a Field Trip
Ideas for activities to do before the field trip to prepare your students.
Do you remember field trips from when you were a kid?
5. Plan your schedule.
Plan your schedule for the day. Break it up into activities, and decide how long each one would take. Take into consideration the attention span and interests of the students. Try to plan a variety of activities that different types of students will enjoy. Plan very carefully, not allowing for time that is not planned for. This is when kids get into trouble: when they don't know what they are supposed to be doing. Your students are in a new environment; they will be excited, and you don't have your safe four walls to keep them in.
When planning your trip, think in terms of “stations.” For example, I planned a trip to a seniors lodge for all of our grade twos. We had two different areas of the lodge they were to visit: one was touring the facilities with a guide. The other was visiting the elders themselves and hearing their stories. Strive to plan your stations with equal amounts of time, so that one group is not waiting for the other group, and again, apt to get into trouble.
Besides going to your official destination, you may want to schedule some fun time at a park, or elsewhere, to let off steam. Just be sure that you can supervise properly, and everyone is clear about when they have to come back. When I was teaching an alternative class, we went on two field trips where we went to our official destination in the A.M., and then to the park for P.M. It was great ... we brought footballs and frisbees, and everyone stayed fairly close by.
6. Figure out your supervision.
You must decide how many adults you need in order to handle the children. This will vary depending on the behaviour of your students, as well as their age and maturity. Check with your administrator for permission to take the teacher's aide, and perhaps an extra teacher's aide on the trip.
You may need to ask for parent volunteers, as well. You may do this by calling up specific parents, by a letter, or by asking students to ask their parents, or in your regular communication you have with your parents (I.e.. communication book, newsletter, website, etc.) Go over your students and put into groups of no more than 15 (preferably less) and assign each adult a group. Make up a list of group members for each staff member, which you will use for roll call during the trip
Now that you have your itinerary planned out, and all the resources in place, you are ready to write your permission form letter.
Cute Entertainment about Field Trips!
7. Create a Permission Form
This letter has two parts.
First Part of Letter
The top part of the letter should contain the following information:
a. Where you are going
b. What the purpose of your trip, including the curriculum connection
c. When you are going, including the time you are leaving, and the time you are being picked up
d. The contact information for the school and contact person (probably you, but it could be the school secretary or another staff member.)
e. What students will need to wear (if applicable) and any thing they need to bring, including money, if applicable.
f. What you will be doing for food arrangements
g. What the transportation arrangements are
h. By what date the permission forms need to be sent back
Second Part of Letter:
The second part of the letter will be at the bottom, and meant to be torn off.
This part will look like this:
I, ___________________________________ (parent/guardian) give permission for
_________________________(student) to attend the ******** field trip on the date of ******.
Remind the students regularly to bring back the forms.
You might have this guy in your class!
Decide Who Gets To Go On The Trip
8. Decide Parameters for who's allowed to go on trip
Decide who will be going on the trip. By this, I mean that you might require acceptable behaviour for a week before the trip. This is a good incentive for children, and it does stop a student from going who will be a behaviour problem and ruin for everyone else. Decide on will be done with the students that can't go on the trip (stay home? Go to another class? Library?) Check to make sure that another adult is responsible for him or her while you are gone for the day.
Have a backup plan. Decide what you will do if a student is absolutely defiant and refuses to listen and causes a scene. Hopefully, this doesn't happen, but decide ahead of time, just in case. You might an agreement that that child will go to the bus for a time to cool down. Decide whatever is appropriate, and let all the children know that there will be consequences for misbehaviour. Just like they do with parents at a grocery store, kids will sometimes see a public place as an opportunity to get away with as much as they can.
9. Tie in your Field Trip to Curriculum
Decide what kind of assignment and learning you would like to tie in with this lesson plan. For some ideas for assignments to do before the trip, see this article. This may include pre-learning where you do some background reading on the place you are going, or on a related topic. You may also do some assignments while you are there. Also, see what the facility has for learning activities while there. Tell students that they have to do these because they are part of their mark. Also, you can have follow-up activities and assignments. I have a lot of ideas for curriculum tie-ins, which I will save for another article.
Day of the Trip ...
- The day of the trip, try to arrive at the school a little earlier than usual to give yourself peace of mind.
- Check to make sure all students have their permission forms signed back in, and the money is collected.
- Have all students wait in their rooms until is time to go. Have an activity for them. If this relates to the trip, that's great. It might be a group game or a puzzle. The point is that they have something to do, because this time is one of anticipation for them, and you need a plan!
- When the transportation is ready, have students go the buses or cars, in groups. Don't have everyone go at once, unless you have a very small group.
- Assign each staff member a group, and give them their list. They will do roll call throughout the day. They do this either silently by just doing a visual check, or if it's a big group, call out their names.
- Give instructions at two times to make sure they are heard. Check for understanding by getting one of the students to repeat it. Treat this like the learning experience it is.
- Bring along some puzzle books and magazines to give out to students if you're going to be driving for more than half an hour.
Have a great day! If you take the time to do all this planning, you should have a great trip!
Questions & Answers
What if a child is lost?
Thanks for your great question! Yes, it can easily happen that a child gets lost on a field trip. They may get distracted by something interesting and take a wrong turn, or deliberately wander off, in the quest of freedom. Whatever the reason, this situation is of grave concern to the supervisors on the field.
Here are some tips to handle the situation of a lost child.
1. Ask other students, and all the supervisiors about the last time they saw the child. The more information you can get, the better.
2. Consider stopping the activities, until the child is found. Have the children stay in a secure spot, supervised, and then have as many adults as possible looking. This would be a good time to consider having a meal or snack, or reviewing what you have viewed so far.
3. If applicable, enlist the help of staff at the place where you are located, such as museum staff. They may also be able to give you some clues about where the child may have gone.
4. Divide and conquer to look for the child, trying to cover as much territory as possible.
The best strategy is always prevention, so to prevent the possibility of a lost child, here are some tips:
1. Make sure you have enough supervision, with lots of adults along.
2. Divide children into small groups, and write down your groups, so you know who is with each person. Give the list of their children to all the adults.
3. Instruct the children on the importance of staying with their supervisors at all times.
4. Put the children in pairs, so they can look out for each other.
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