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Field Trips

Creating Effective Field Trips

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Group of young students hanging out bus windows
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Field trips are normally not a required part of your curriculum. So the first question you must ask yourself is whether they are worth it. To this effect, let's look at some of the pros and cons of field trips.

Pros of Field Trips

  • They are a way to reinforce and expand on concepts taught in class.
  • They offer students another method to learn concepts and are especially good for the many tactile/kinesthetic students in your classroom.
  • They allow for a shared reference that can be referred to later as you are teaching new concepts. (e.g. remember when we saw...)
  • They allow you and your students a different format in which to get to know each other and bond.

Cons of Field Trips

  • You have to plan ahead above and beyond your normal lessons.
  • You will need to complete and collect paperwork from your students.
  • You need to keep your students organized and well-disciplined.
  • Your field trip might turn out to be a dud.

What to Do?

You can see that there are many pros and cons to field trips. They do take time and can lead to further challenges but at the same time if used effectively they can lead to a deeper understanding not readily available within the classroom environment. Realize that in terms of a field trip, the more time and effort you put in before the day of the trip the better your chances of success.

Possible Field Trip Ideas

Your first choice once you decide to participate in a field trip is to decide on your destination. There are many to choose from including museums, archaeological sites, zoos, nature trails, and theme parks. The main consideration is the objective of your field trip. You should have a purpose in mind and do your research. A trip on your own to the field trip site is a huge boon to the selection process so that you truly pick something the kids will enjoy and learn from. However, a personal visit is not an absolute necessity. Make sure, however, that at the very least you have checked out the location's website and found out the costs and policies involved.

Planning Your Field Trip

Following is a list of items that you need to consider while planning your field trip. Realize this is probably the most important part of an effective and relatively enjoyable field trip.

  • Determine your destination and write your objectives for the visit.
  • Consult your administration and gain approval. Every school is different concerning approvals and there might be blackout dates and other items that you need to consider.
  • Determine transportation rules and decide on the mode of transportation.
  • Learn the rules for collecting money and get any necessary permission forms for students.
  • Find out the rules concerning lunches and decide on what you are going to do about eating lunch. You might find that if you have students on free or reduced lunches that the school will provide them with bag lunches for the trip. However, these must be ordered in advance. Also make sure you've determined where students will be eating their lunches on the trip. Many locations do not provide a location where food is allowed. You also probably will not be allowed to eat on the bus. One solution is to find a nearby park where the students can eat their lunches.
  • Determine the number of chaperones you will need; your district probably has guidelines for chaperones that you will need to follow.
  • Pass out permission slips and an information sheet for students including due dates for money and signed forms and the cost and details of your trip. You can also ask for chaperones at this time.
  • Collect money and keep a careful accounting. Make sure to follow all school rules concerning the collection of money.
  • Remind students as the due date nears and call parents if you are not getting enough chaperones.
  • Create student groups. Remember that many destinations will have rules concerning student-chaperone ratios so check these out early. Also spend some time determining your groups. Do not allow students to just choose their own groups because this is a recipe for disaster. Further, try to remember student personalities. Make sure to take it easy on the chaperones. For example, don't put the most trying students together in one group if it can be at all avoided.
  • Create a lesson for students to complete in conjunction with the field trip. This might be a scavenger hunt, a worksheet with questions to answer while at the destination, an essay that they must complete upon return, or some other activity. Check with your field trip location because they might have ready-made lesson plans that you can use.
  • Create a contingency plan in case things go wrong. For example, what if the students are finished one hour before the buses are set to return? This might be the time to create a fun mini-lesson you can pass out for extra credit.
  • On field trip day, you will want to get to school early. Make sure you have all required forms and attendance sheets ready to go. If you need to get lunches from the cafeteria, make sure you have these also. Be prepared to orient your chaperones concerning your expectations, their groups, and the class assignment. Let your students know your expectations and then go and have fun.
  • Debrief concerning the field trip the next day after your return. Talk about the group impressions and what students learned. You can use this to further their learning and also to decide if you will go on that particular field trip again in future years.

In the end, field trips do require extra time and planning. However, in many ways they provide you and your students with a fun way to enhance and extend lessons in class.

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