Field Trip Tips! (FREEBIE)

Our pre-k and kindergarten classes recently went across town for a Stephen Fite concert. He's an amazing children's entertainer with several cds packed with great learning songs as well as fun brain breaks. From Old MacDonald's Blend Farm to Cowboy Countin' By 2s he puts a fun country twist on classic songs. Tired of The Tooty-Ta? Try Stephen's Country Tooty-Ta (free download!) which breathes new life into that old standard! He performs in Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas and also does professional development!At the concert I purchased his Giddy-Up & Learn Cd to add to my collection - you can never have too many learning songs!

 I got a picture with him after the show - here's me trying to look country!

Last minute money counting, permission slip collecting and sack lunch logistics filled my first hour at school. By the time I had made sure every child had a potty break and was assigned a buddy, I barely had time to gulp a little lukewarm coffee before heading onto the bus. During the bus ride (which was only 15 minutes but can seem like much longer if you don't keep the kids occupied) we sang practically every song I could ever recall singing in class. The fact that we sang over 10 songs during that 15 minute ride is proof (at least to me) that buses travel through some kind of warped time/space continuum that makes every minute of the ride last ten times longer than normal.

Still. Field Trips are a rite of passage for students all over the country.The coolness of a teacher/grade/school is sometimes measured by how many field trips they offer (my oldest son is going on 2 field trips in May and his brothers (who attend other schools) are green with envy) A field trip can be the learning experience that ties together a unit of study. It can be the jumping off point for research or a team building experience. 

While a field trip can be a great experience,  a poorly planned or organized one can be a nightmare! In order to maximize the learning and reduce your stress, here are 10 tips for a better field trip!

Order Your Sack Lunches

Put your sack lunch list in early and in writing. There is nothing worse than a mix-up about lunches. Make sure you know how far advance you need to order your sack lunches – every school is different. When you order, do it in writing and include the total number of student, chaperone and teacher lunches you’ll need. Make sure to note any dietary restrictions so your lactose intolerant student gets juice rather than milk that day!

Remember To Medicate

Check on medication – from inhalers to ADHD meds, you’ll need to know if students will have to take those medications while on the field trip or if they can safely be given before or after the trip. In the case of medication that needs to be taken along, how must it be stored? Do you need to be certified to administer it? Find this information out well in advance so you can plan for it!
Send Home The Slips

Copy  twice as many permission slips as you have students. Some are going to get lost before they even get home. Some are going to be destroyed by spilled juice, baby sisters or dogs. This is not the time to teach “responsibility” so if students forget  or lose their slip, make sure you have extras handy so you don’t have to keep running to the copy machine! Also, make sure to give plenty of time to get those permission slips returned – and consider giving them a grace period – tell the permission slips are due on Tuesday when you actually can take them until Thursday. That way when a student turns his slip in a day late, you can still accept it! 

Choose Chaperones Wisely

Check with your venue to determine how many chaperones they recommend. Then look at your parent volunteers and choose the ones who will be responsible, on time, and actually paying attention to all the children in their group, not just their own! You can generally tell the more trustworthy parents by thinking about who comes to school activities, who is always on time for dismissal, which student always remembers a backpack/coat and which student is never tardy. You don’t want to have a parent who will back out at the last minute, show up late, encourage misbehavior or ignore the rest of the children in their group.

Assign Your Groups

This is not the time to allow students to choose who they want to partner up with. In order to make sure the field trip is safe, enjoyable and a good learning experience for all, take care when putting your groups together. Try to separate chatty students, make sure students who don’t get along are in different groups and assign your challenging students to yourself. If you have a student with especially poor behavior, consider having one of his parents come specifically to look after him. For younger students, assign each child a “buddy” to hold hands with as they walk from school to bus to venue. It is harder for two students to wander off than just one!

Make a List For Your Chaperones

Included should be:
Names of students in each group
Trip itinerary
Phone numbers for your cell, the school and other chaperones.
Field Trip rules
You should also have copies of that information, along with student permission slips so you have contact numbers at hand.

Prepare For The Bus Ride

Make sure everyone goes to the bathroom before getting on the bus! Come up with ways to occupy students on the bus - idle students get LOUD! During a short bus ride, you can sing songs with the students. Make a list of ones you’re all familiar with, because trying to remember a song on the spot can be difficult. For longer bus rides consider bringing dry erase boards and markers, a book to read aloud or books for the children to look at. If possible, let students know which landmarks to look for so they’ll know how close you are. “We’re going to have to pay two tolls, so we won’t be there until after the second toll.” can cut down on at least a few “Are we there yet?”s.  Know your bus rules regarding drinks/snacks – especially for younger students who might need to eat or drink during a longer bus ride. Generally if you clean up, the bus driver will let you ignore that “No Food or Drinks” sign at the front of the bus!

Count Your Students, Often

Do a headcount the morning of the trip. Consider writing that number on your hand so you’ll easily remember it. Then count again when you’re on the bus, as you come off the bus, if you’re switching activities and at random points throughout the day. If a student does manage to wander off, its better to find out when you’re doing another headcount than when its time to get on the bus! Make sure students know your name and your school name so they can be returned to you if they get lost. For safety reasons, its not good to put the child’s name on his shirt, but consider a sticker INSIDE the shirt or a wrist bracelet with the information.

Let Your Students Lead You

Take your cues from the students - during the field trip they might want to spend more time on one activity than another. If they become engrossed in something, consider whether you can omit something else to accommodate spending more time on that activity. If they’re antsy after the long bus ride, try to let them let off some steam before any sit-down activities. Keep the pace up so they don’t get bored, but be ready to stop for a restroom or drink break so they don’t get worn out. Make sure to schedule water breaks throughout the day for outside activities so no one gets dehydrated. When stopping for a bathroom break, make sure everyone goes, even if they don’t think they need to!

Evaluate Your Trip

After the field trip – discuss what you saw/learned/heard while on the bus or right when you get back to the classroom. Have students record their experience with a quick drawing or writing activity while its still fresh in their minds. Over the next few days you can expand on the learning, but its important to give students time to “download” the information in some way on the day of the trip. They can then refer to that during the follow up lessons! While they're doing that, you can write down any tips you want to remember for your next field trip!

Here's a handy check-list for you to help you remember! Just click the picture to download for free!

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