I get up early the morning of the field trip to the sugar maple farm in minor panic mode. I know I’ve forgotten to do something. I’m almost certain I’ve ordered the school lunches and already asked the school nurse to drop off the epi-pen this morning before we leave. There is still a nagging worry that most likely won’t dissipate until we are safely ensconced in our bus seats.
What’s the most stressful part of field trip planning for you? Gathering enough chaperones? Finding an alternative for students who won’t be attending? Just the sheer thought of it all?
I get it.
I’ve taken students on field trips to the library around the corner. To visit colleges. To pumpkin patches. Even on three-day adventures in the woods.
And even though it’s never perfect, it DOES get easier each time because I have learned lessons and gained invaluable experience.
Let’s take one slice of anxiety off of your plate. After deciding where you are going, arranging for transportation, and creating a plan for both lunch and your day, the field trip permission slips are the next logical step. These forms not only give families details about your trip, but also provide you with important details about the kids in your care.
Here are ten tips for creating exceptional field trip permission slips.
- Don’t Forget to Include Your Plan
While families don’t necessarily need to see your entire, Flair-Pen-organized itinerary, they do need to know what’s going on while their child is off school grounds. Take time to write down the main activities/points of interest you will be doing and seeing so parents can better visualize the day.
Most importantly, the date, start, and end time of the field trip should be noted several times to highlight their significance. Families need to know if they will be picking up their child later than normal, or potentially meeting in a different spot in the morning.
2. The Wheels on the Bus
When I was in school, it was the parents and guardians who drove us on field trips. We piled into station wagons, subtly elbowing to make room for a spot in the back. Beach Boys or Aaliyah hummed through the speakers; you chose your group carefully because the ride to the skate rink wasn’t a short one.
Now, in addition to the trusty family vehicles, there are district and school buses, charter buses, vans, and public transportation as options to take kids to and from the field trip. Your families need to know which option you have chosen so they can plan accordingly and have confidence in their child’s safety.
3. Fee Collection
Some field trips have associated costs. Transportation. Entrance fees. Tickets. Activity fees. Personally, I like to put the amount in bold on the permission slip letters, so parents see the information and are less likely to forget the payment when they turn in the slips.
Make sure to also include the acceptable forms of payment. If sending home a paper permission slip, staple on a bag or envelope for parents to include the money. When possible, accepting digital payments will make your life a whole lot easier than trying to keep track of dollar bills and crumpled checks in a locked envelope.
Or, if you’re me as a novice teacher, a ziploc bag in my desk drawer.
We did have a few parents call to send love from home, but thankfully no emergencies arose while being in a remote location.
The most important meal of the day: snacks. Do you have a plan for those rumbling
tummies and hangry attitudes? Will the students be responsible for their own snacks or will they be provided?
You might be eating lunch on-site if it’s a longer field trip. Don’t forget to include how it will be served. Several options might include bringing a lunch from home, taking one provided by the cafeteria, or purchasing food while on the trip. How will the lunches be transported? If the participants are bringing money for lunch, parents can make a plan for how to keep it safe; you might offer to hold onto it yourself, if you feel comfortable doing so.
Knowing the plan for snacks and lunches well ahead of time can really make things easier for parents. If they know what they need to send in with their child, they can plan their grocery trips and ATM stops accordingly.
Whenever possible, have kids bring water bottles from home for the trip. Bringing full water bottles makes it much easier to stay hydrated than trying to find a drinking fountain while visiting a ranch.
The weather where I live is constantly changing. You might start the day in short sleeves and end it in a winter coat. If your field trip is taking place outdoors, you definitely want to let parents know so they can have their child dress accordingly.
Some common things to wear or bring include:
- Sunscreen (with parent permission, you might be able to apply it while on the trip)
- Comfortable shoes
6. Keeping Everyone Healthy
All of the children in our care have different needs. In some cases, those different needs are medical ones. If a student requires medications or treatments while on the excursion, there will need to be certain steps taken in advance to set them up for success. Parents should be aware of and sign off on the field trip protocol for medications, inhalers, and epi-pens as necessary. It will be up to you to keep their kids safe.
Also. Don’t forget to add a few band-aids to your first-aid kit. Been there, needed them.
Chaperones make field trips possible. Fact. Gathering chaperones is sometimes easier said than done. Also a fact.
The more guidance you can give potential chaperones, the better. What exactly will they be doing while on the trip? Will they be responsible for a group? What should they bring?
Including these details will not only help persuade families to volunteer, but gives everyone a sense of security, stemming from knowing the expectations.
8. Contact Information
If parents need to reach you while on the field trip, how will that look? They most likely already have a way to contact you, but including your details again won’t hurt.
There are many apps that allow for phone calls and texting without giving out your real number. You can also provide an alternative number for families to call if they are not able to reach you. This could be the school office or another chaperone.
When taking students into the mountains for a three-day trip, I included the number for the main cabin because no one had any cell service. We did have a few parents call to send love from home, but thankfully no emergencies arose while being in a remote location.
9. Requested Information
Your field trip letter will include all the particulars parents need, but don’t forget about what you need to collect as well.
If sending home a paper field trip form, include a detachable portion you can use to keep track of who is attending and their information. Digital permission slips will populate the data for you as parents submit it.
And what is ‘said data’? Well, what is it that you need to have handy? Here are some things you might want parents to provide you with to help you prepare for the trip:
- Child’s name
- A method to denote whether child will be attending or if fees have been paid
- Contact information for parents/caregivers
- Allergies (if not already provided)
- Signature to verify permission
- Lunch preference
10. Due Date
Although families know when the field trip will take place, don’t forget to include the deadline by which you need the permission slip forms. Do families know how they should be delivered?
Remember, this date should be well enough in advance that you have the numbers to deliver to the right people. Cafeteria workers. Bus drivers. Activity leaders. You’ll need the names and numbers for your own planning. And for confirming with chaperones before the day of the trip.
Provide reminders about due dates as the trip approaches. You don’t want a child to be left behind because they didn’t have a replacement permission slip.
Oh, and the thing I forgot? The field trip wasn’t until Monday. And there’s no school on Saturday.
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