South Carolina Teacher
When it comes to planning a field trip for kids there are a million and one things to remember. Sometimes just organizing your thoughts can be overwhelming. Your mind begins to swarm with all of the things that could go wrong; from kids losing their phones to extra rest stops, and heaven forbid, the worst-case scenario, a missing child.
My hope is that this list will serve as a guide to planning a well-thought-out field trip for kids and leave little room for unwanted surprises. After all, the point of a field trip is for students to gain real-life experience and take their learning a step beyond the classroom. So, let’s make sure your trip runs smoothly. Take a look below, and happy planning!
Chaperones are necessary for field trips. The more adults keeping a watchful eye on the kids the better. But how many do you need? How do you calculate the student to chaperone ratio? Are background checks necessary?
If this is a school field trip, always consult with your school districts chaperone policies first. Afterwards consider the following details as well:
1. What is the time span of your field trip?
Is the field trip going to involve staying overnight? If so, for how many days? You may want to have chaperones stay awake in shifts throughout the night to avoid any shenanigans. The more chaperones you have the fewer hours per shift, and everyone can get a fair amount of sleep.
2. Is this an international field trip?
If you will be traveling to another country, you will absolutely want more chaperones. Consider traveling through the airport among hundreds of other travelers or being in a different country with a language barrier. It can be very stressful being in different country by yourself, let alone with a group of kids. Having more chaperones will help in stressful situations and cut down on mishaps.
3. Consider the kids attending your trip.
Do any of your kids have special needs? They may require more attention at times, and you want to be prepared for any special accommodations they need.
How many students are attending? You will want to look at your school district’s policies on the student-to-chaperone ratio. I always add one to two more chaperones than what is required, especially for younger kids and for larger groups. For a group of 80 middle school students attending a field trip to an amusement park I had 10 chaperones, and each was responsible for eight students and then added two more just to be safe.
Is this a co-ed field trip? Having both males and females attending your trip can open up a new set of possible problems. Let’s be honest, boys and girls don’t always get along, and then again, sometimes they get along too well.
4. What activities will take place on the field trip?
Is your trip going to be physically demanding? Will you be participating in activities that require the students to exert themselves? If so, it will be important to have chaperones that can both keep up with the pace of activities and those that can slow down for students who need more time.
5. Are Background checks necessary?
When deciding whether your chaperones need background checks for a school field trip always follow your school district’s policies. A good rule of thumb is that if a chaperone is going to have unsupervised access to any child then background checks are a must. Other conditions that may warrant background checks include overnight field trips and trips where the kids will need to change clothing.
#2 Emergency Contacts
A list of emergency contacts for every child/student is very important. I ask for three contacts for each student. It’s best to have this information well in advance to allow time to check that every phone number is in good working condition.
Always have the Emergency Contact list easily accessible during the field trip. Make plenty of copies and in some cases, you may want to laminate one or two of the copies in case of water damage. Give each chaperone a copy of the Emergency Contact list as well.
#3 Rest Stops
Consider how often you may need to stop for restroom breaks, stretching legs, and food. To plan appropriately consider the distance you’re traveling, the age of the kids/students, and whether there are any have special needs. Don’t forget to add the time needed for rest stops into your itinerary. You may want to play it safe and an extra fifteen minutes to account for any emergency stops.
#4 The Buddy System
On every field trip, I have always used the Buddy System. Every student was assigned a buddy. In most cases, same-gender buddies are best. This will cut down on issues with bathroom breaks, etc.
Most of the time allowing the students to choose their buddy works well. I would do this before the date of the field trip. If there is an odd number of kids, make a group of three buddies. Be sure to remind kids ahead of time as well as on the day of departure that they should never go anywhere alone. They must always inform a chaperone of where they will be, and they must always have their buddy with them.
#5 Practice! Practice! Practice!
What behavioral expectations do you have for the kids/students while on your field trip? What are your rules? If the rules are not followed, what are the consequences? Depending on the ages of the kids attending, acting out skits to show samples of good and poor behavior can be useful.
It’s also incredibly important that the kids understand all procedures, such as knowing when to give you, their attention. What will be your signal when you need everyone’s undivided attention? Will you clap a rhythm? Will you blow a whistle or count to three? Whatever your procedure is, practice is the best way to assure that everyone understands.
Parents should know where their kids are at any given time during the trip. It’s also just as important that you do your best to stay on track with the itinerary. Changes should be communicated to parents immediately.
If any of your students have allergies it’s important to know what they are. Keep a list of student allergies with the Emergency Contact list to ensure quick and easy accessibility. Make sure chaperones are given the allergy list as well. It’s also important that you know whether any students will be carrying an Epi-Pen.
#7 Appropriate Clothing
Always create a packing list for the kids. Overnight trips will require multiple changes of clothing. Never assume that the parents will know exactly what to pack and the reminder is always helpful.
It will also be helpful for you to keep track of the weather forecast. Then you can make adjustments to attire accordingly. Encourage students to bring a sweatshirt or jacket no matter what the weather conditions are. Being inside can be just as chilly as being outside because of air conditioning.
#8 Entertainment During Travel
Depending on the age of the kids and the length of travel you may want to put together a packet of activity sheets to help keep them entertained. You can incorporate the activity sheets into the lesson of a school field trip or if this field trip is a reward create some fun worksheets to help pass the time. It’s also fun to offer rewards for those who complete the sheets.
If there are televisions on your mode of transportation, consider what movies you will watch. Remember to be very cautious with ratings and content. You may want to inform parents of the options to ensure everyone agrees that the movies are appropriate.
Also, consider what kids/students can bring to entertain themselves. Make sure to follow your school district’s procedures in the case of a school field trip. Can the kids bring phones? Can they bring hand-held gaming devices? What is not allowed on the trip? If you do allow electronics and expensive gadgets, have in writing that you/the school are not responsible for anything lost, stolen, or broken.
It’s important that everyone involved in your field trip has an itinerary. Parents should know where their kids are at any given time during the trip. It’s also just as important that you do your best to stay on track with the itinerary. Changes should be communicated to parents immediately. Nothing is worse than being met with a group of unhappy parents because their child’s bus was two hours late.
#10 Phone Tree
In case of changes to the Itinerary having a Phone Tree set up is very helpful. This resource will allow you to get information to all parents quickly. Also, make sure to give your cell phone number to each parent, and if chaperones will permit give a list of their numbers to parents as well. Communication is key when traveling with other people’s children and you can never be too prepared.
I hope this list of essentials helps you plan your next field trip. Give yourself a head start and ponder over these details. Planning a field trip for kids is no small task but it’s always worth the effort to see their faces light up in the midst of real-life experiences!