New Jersey Teacher
When going on a field trip, there are many things to organize. The most recent field trip I organized was just before the Covid-19 pandemic hit.
Planning the trip on top of teaching was not an easy task to achieve. In fact, I was in constant communication with the English Language Arts (ELA) supervisor, my principal, and both of the vice principals. Here is how I was a successful field trip organizer.
Step 1 — Find an interesting, relevant field trip
At the beginning of the school year, my principal talked to all of the teachers and staff at a school-wide orientation. She told us that the students have lived a very sheltered life, and needed to go places. She even mentioned that many of these students had never been to an airport!
In 8th grade English class, we read a book called Warriors Don’t Cry throughout the first few months of school. It is a memoir written by Melba Patillo Beals, and recalls her story as a member of the Little Rock Nine, the group of brave young students who integrated all-white schools in Alabama back in 1957.
A local university was putting on a one-woman show version of Warriors Don’t Cry a few months later! Thinking back to what the principal had said, I sent her and the other aforementioned administrators an email, asking for their opinions. They were all on board, except for the ELA supervisor, who was on the fence because she was not sure if it would fall under one of the NJSLS (New Jersey Student Learning Standards) for ELA. After copying and pasting the appropriate standards, my supervisor was on board as well.
If you are being a field trip organizer for your school, make sure that you can find interesting, relevant field trips. If your supervisor is like mine and needs a reason, make sure you are able to justify why — certain field trips, such as trips to a museum, would lend themselves to this easier than field trips to a local baseball game.
Step 2 — Transportation
Now that all of the relevant administrators were ready to help me out, one of the vice principals reached out to me and told me to find buses. Since I was brand new at organizing field trips for the students, I asked him what companies our district had used in the past for field trips. He sent me the information, and I sent an email to a woman at the company.
She asked me many questions, including how many students and staff members were going, what date was the trip, and what time would we need the buses. After double checking with the vice principal to make sure I had all the information correct, I emailed the woman and told her, making sure to copy all of the administrators on the email, so they could read what she said at their leisure,
When you are organizing the field trip, make sure you have the correct information for the transportation. Perhaps your students would walk to your location, as has happened in two of the previous districts where I have worked. But, if not, make sure that the transportation is set up well in advance.
Step 3 — Funding
Many districts that I have worked in have a separate fund for field trips. If this is the case, all the students need to do is pay a certain amount of money (which would vary depending on distance, bus expenses, etc) with their permission slip and then they are ready to enjoy the trip!
Many schools, however, are not lucky enough to have a field trip fund. If that is the case, then the teacher may need to get creative! When I was in high school, the choir went on a trip every year, but the students needed to pay for the trip themselves. The choir director bought chocolate bars for students to sell. Throughout the day, I would sell these chocolate bars to students and staff alike, all to fund the trip.
However, I do not recommend this if your students are in elementary or middle school. For students this age, a school-wide event would be better. For example, try selling snacks at a school play or sporting event to raise money for the field trip. Having a bake sale can also be a great idea, since everybody loves cookies and other sweet treats! Whatever method you choose, make sure to have the other teachers help out. More often than not, fellow teachers volunteer and make your time as field trip organizer easier by doing so.
Step 4 — Find chaperones
When I taught third grade about ten years ago, all of the third grade classes went on a field trip to visit Ellis Island in New York. It was the highlight of the third grade year for many students, having them discuss it as early as the second day of school! However, I knew that I, as a first year teacher, could not realistically watch a class of 25 students in a place as large as that.
My mentor teacher suggested that I email the parents of my students to see if any of them would like to volunteer as chaperones on the trip. Within a day, I had 6 parents express their interest! Eventually, two had to drop out, which led to 4 parents and myself chaperoning 5 kids each. This was far more manageable than one adult with 25 students.
When determining which children went with which chaperone, each parent had their own child. I then asked the students to write the names of two other students they wanted in their groups — with the caveat that I could not promise they would all get who they wanted in their groups, but that I would do my best. I made sure to share these groupings with the parents well in advance of the trip — as predicted, the parents already knew the friends, and were unsurprised with the groups that the students chose.
Organizing a field trip may not be an easy process, but doing it is fun. Other than the obvious benefits, it builds trust between teachers, administrators and parents. Hopefully by following this guide, the next field trip you have will be as stress-free as possible!
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