A few years ago, I had the wonderful opportunity to take a group of about 60 second graders to one of our local zoos. As a first-year teacher, I wanted to do something exciting and fun with my kiddos and create some memories before the end of the year rolled around.
I volunteered to plan the entire thing, and to my surprise, it wasn’t as difficult as it seemed! Zoos are typically very field-trip friendly and many already have programs in place for tons of age groups to make things more educational than your typical day browsing the exhibits and eating ice cream.
The first thing I did once I decided on my field trip idea was get in touch with the zoo to learn more about their programs, availability, and pricing. I came up with a schedule based on what they offered as far as enrichment, as well as some possible dates for the trip.
Then I reached out to bussing companies. My group was fairly large in size and we needed two charter buses to take us on the 30-minute drive. This is where the bulk of our cost came from since these buses were quite expensive. I was working at a charter school at the time and we didn’t have access to the public school buses.
Once those two major components were planned, I calculated the cost per student as well as the cost for any parent chaperones who were interested in joining us on the trip. My proposal was submitted, as well as lots of other paperwork, and in a few weeks, my trip was approved!
The next step took the most patience and communication. We had about 100 second graders total and after juggling permission slips, questions from parents, background checks, and even more planning, we had a final count of who would be attending our zoo field trip. We finalized that 64 students, 20 chaperones, and three teachers would be attending, and I couldn’t be more excited for our day to come!
Leading up to the day of the field trip I knew there was so much more to do. Once I had a finalized list of parents and students, I created a “Field Trip Guide” so that I can communicate with parents about what to expect the day of. This included things like what to bring, my contact information, what chaperone groups they’d be in, and what our schedule would look like.
Our chaperone groups were very small, which was a goal of mine as I know keeping track of kids on a field trip can be stressful at times
One of the reasons this trip worked out so perfectly was because of my amazing chaperones! I had such great parents who were ready to bring whatever was needed and were excited to join us for the educational and fun experience ahead. Almost 10 parents agreed to bring along large coolers to keep our bagged lunches in and each parent was also able to bring along a large backpack to wear during the day.
I created hang tags for each of my chaperones that they were able to wear around their neck throughout the day. These plastic cards included their schedule for the day as well as my personal contact information and the students in their group. On top of this, each student wore a name tag to make it easier for parents to keep track of their groups. This is something I would highly recommend for anyone planning a trip with younger kids.
One thing that I was proud of was how organized and ready we were the morning of. I had already spoken to each parent and let them know how things would work to ensure that our morning would run smoothly. We all met in the cafeteria about 30 minutes after school started and loaded up our lunches in the coolers.
Our chaperone groups were very small, which was a goal of mine as I know keeping track of kids on a field trip can be stressful at times! Before we loaded the busses I had each parent meet their small group of two or three students. The parents collected their water bottles, and I supplied each group with a handful of snacks to hold in case of an emergency.
We loaded the bus at around 8 am and headed toward the zoo! The atmosphere was buzzing as all the students were so excited to visit the zoo – some for the first time. I knew this was a great field trip idea and couldn’t wait to see some animals!
The zoo we visited had an awesome enrichment program in addition to all the amazing exhibits. Our large group of 64 was split into three smaller groups to create a more personalized experience during our learning. The enrichment activity lasted about 45 minutes and when the students were not inside the zoo classroom, they were free to roam around the open exhibits with their chaperone group.
The zoo offered a wonderful program that included some fun worksheets, activities, and personal encounters with some animals. The entire presentation lasted less than an hour and I’ve never seen my students more engaged! I could tell they learned so much and were so excited for the rest of the day.
By 11 am, each group was finished with the enrichment activity and were walking around the zoo visiting all the animals they had just learned about. Myself and the two other teachers who came along were not attached to any students, rather we took some time to ourselves to visit some exhibits and pop around to different areas to see how everyone was doing.
By noon we were all hungry and met up at the front of the zoo to have lunch. They had a great grassy area in the front with tons of shade and picnic tables where we all gathered to eat. We spent about an hour eating our lunch and let the kids run around a bit more before visiting the gift shop and heading home.
Overall the entire experience was amazing. Nothing went wrong and each student had the time of their lives. A few of my chaperones even mentioned how incredibly fun and stress-free their day was.
If you’re looking for an awesome field trip idea, especially for younger kids, definitely consider the zoo! Most have programs in place targeted at specific age groups and will help make the experience one to remember.