Head of Operations, British Council Singapore
As an eight-, nine-, or ten-year-old, I bet you never thought much about what went into the fabled annual class trip. The one day that school year you were not seated in the four walls of your classroom, but free from any academic obligations to explore a museum, learn about the local library, or chat with the most-awesome-est animal caretaker at the zoo of all time. These trips, what you saw, what you learned, and what you remember about them were new, unique, and helped you expand your world view ever so slightly. To top it all off, once your morning of field trip fun was over, you were able to have lunch on the sidewalk with all your friends and eat the best sunbaked ham and cheese sandwich with a side of goldfish crackers while happily discussing what you learned that day. Before you knew it, you and your classmates were shuffled back onto the Bluebird school bus and transported back to campus on what seemed to be the most energetic bus ride of time. What more could eight-year-old you ask for?!
Fast forward a few years, you are no longer eight years old, you are twenty-eight years old, for the fourth time, and are responsible for the safety and well-being of a classroom full of students who are bubbling with excitement for their upcoming trip to the museum and it is up to you to keep them safe while simultaneously ensuring the students learn something requires a lot of planning, preparation, and communication. Whether you have your admin license and are looking to transition to leadership or are a first-year teacher still navigating the ins and outs of the perfect lesson plan, without adequate preparation, the learning portion of experiential learning can quickly fall to the side of any field trip.
To help you plan a stellar experiential learning excursion, often referred to as a field trip, a team of field trip loving educators and admins has come together to create the Field Trip 101 checklist. This checklist identifies most, not all, of the tasks that should be completed leading up to any field trip to assist you as you prepare to bring the classroom to life.
- Set a Date and Contact the Location
Before anything can be communicated to parents, you or your admin team should review the academic calendar and determine which dates work best for the field trip. Doing this early in the term/semester/quarter/year is important because there are key dates all educators need to work around including exam times, breaks, public holidays, etc.
Once a few tentative dates are selected, reach out to the company or vendor you will be working with to organize the field trip. Although big institutions like museums or zoos can handle large groups of people, speak with the vendor to confirm the venue is able to host a large group of students, and confirm the experience is age appropriate for the students you are bringing. If your initial point of contact is via phone, it is highly recommended a follow up email is sent to ensure there is no confusion around what was discussed, on what the students will be going to see, the date of reservation, and any other details important to the conversation to help track where you are in the planning process.
- Prepare Communications to Parents
After the trip details are confirmed, it is important to communicate with parents and share with them a short message about the field trip with key trip details. It is important to emphasize this should be a short message. Like everyone else, the parents of your students are busy, and more than likely do not have time to read a long, detailed message about the ins and outs of a field trip their child will be able to attend if they return a field trip consent form, they will receive in the coming days or weeks. The message should contain the key details of the event such as:
- The date of trip
- The location of the field trip
- Planned time of departure from campus
- Planned time of arrival to campus
- Additional details required like arriving earlier than normal to campus, sharing lunch will not happen on campus and students will need to bring their own lunch if to-go to school lunches are not provided by the school cafeteria
This message should be more of an FYI with a nice message placed at the bottom in large bold letters asking parents to contact their child’s teacher directly if they are interested in chaperoning and/or have any questions about the field trip.
- Prepare Field Trip Forms
As part of the overall planning process, there is always the dreaded admin component of collecting parent signatures to ensure each student has the necessary permissions to participate in the field trip. Historically, this process required the main office staff to print of hundreds of pages of the same form and request the teachers to distribute the forms to their students and then be responsible for the collection of these forms. This tedious, time-consuming, and parent management heavy process is essential to receive the permission to ensure each student can enjoy the field trip. To help teachers and other members of staff reduce the amount of time collecting and filing forms, there is a digital field trip form service, with a teacher first model, call Mobile Permissions that uses technology to reduce time spent on the administration and collection of these forms. Check out Mobile Permissions at www.mobilepermissions.com to see how they can help you get the forms you need in the hands of parents and reduce the number of forms that land in your hands.
- Work With Your Admin to Schedule Buses
Once parents, students, and members of your grade team are aware of the field trip, the next part of the trip is to determine how to transport everyone from point a to point b, or from the school to the venue. To do this, make sure your admin team reaches out the school bus company ASAP to confirm bus availability. You would be surprised how often your district school buses are reserved by other schools for trips!
- Communicate With Your School Nurse
Depending on your school’s policy, and allergies or conditions present in your classroom, it may be a requirement to collect any medication that might be required in the event of an emergency on a trip.
- Confirm Parent Chaperones
While being a teacher makes you, by default, superhuman, classroom management principles somehow do not always transfer as nicely from the desk to the Dugong exhibit, and while the goal is of experiential learning is to learn through experience, the health and safety of your students should always be your number one priority. To do this, make sure you have enough parent chaperones to keep as many eyes on the students as possible. A good ratio should be one chaperone or teacher for every 4 to 7 students to ensure small groups that are more easily managed by the parent chaperones.
- Set Expectations with Students
Last, but not least, in the Field Trip 101 checklist is to have a discussion with your class to review where they will be going, what they will be seeing, what they should look for, and what is expected of them. Setting expectations should be done before boarding the bus, and it is a great way to dispel the out of school energy that will, without a doubt, affect every student in the classroom.
The Field Trip 101 checklist is to assist you in planning at a high level, and to help guide conversations to determine the particulars of the field trip, and ultimately save you and those around you time!
So, I’m going ‘out on a limb’ here. Hopefully a parent of my previous students does not read this article. However, with that being said none of my students were harmed or were in any potential harm.
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