Field trips can be a fun part of teaching and also be downright chaotic. These excursions are essential to education and connect you and your students to the community in ways the kids will never forget. They are a way to keep students engaged, bring parents into the learning process, and supplement the curriculum. Outside your classroom, field trips come with many details that can often be overlooked.
In my first year of teaching, I put off taking the classroom anywhere besides the park next to the school. I was overwhelmed with my new career and feared something terrible would happen. The paperwork felt intimidating, and there was so much to care of. When a mother kindly brought it up, I knew it was finally time. And to my surprise, it was a blast! There were a few hiccups here and there, but overall it was enjoyable. I immediately implemented monthly outings, if not bi-monthly. There are many things to consider, and one of the main things to pay attention to is a permission slip.
The essential parts of a permission slip include the student’s name, the field trip’s location, and emergency contact information. Medications and allergies should also be a top priority and include instructions on how you or a chaperone will handle them. Consider a small write-up about the reason for travel to help give context. Add a note to indicate if a child needs lunch or snacks. You should make arrangements with the cafeteria when a student gets a hot lunch. The form should also include your phone number so anyone can reach you during the event. You can keep all of this information within the permission slip itself.
A ready-to-use template is helpful and reusable, digital or physical. Keep the same system and protocols for the entire year. Parents and guardians will like consistency and know what to expect. Sharing what this entails and how things look early on will keep everyone on the same page. Give this information at Back to School Night or a packet to send home, and address questions and concerns immediately. Creating a field trip schedule for the entire year will be helpful so adults can see what’s coming and when. If parents are driving, make sure their insurance is documented and updated. Provide access to any necessary forms and keep some on hand for later use. Open communication is critical with adults. Be clear and upfront about the activities that will take place on the trip. Consider religious and cultural aspects as well as safety precautions beforehand.
At the beginning of the school year, it’s nice to have all of the field trips planned. If you’re not there or that organized, that’s OK. Know that having this prepped and ready to go will make the year more manageable. If you’re able or interested, think about collaborating with other classes. Students will love sharing the experience; working with another teacher means sharing responsibilities. Another way to stay prepared is to have all the paperwork ready for adults to fill out at the start of the school year. Label each slip and differentiate them. You may need to resend the forms closer to the event, but some will appreciate the option to have it done instantly.
Brainstorm ideas of where to go before the year begins. Of course, your plan for the year will change, but having dates and schedules in place will help keep things on track.
Brainstorm ideas of where to go before the year begins. Of course, your plan for the year will change, but having dates and schedules in place will help keep things on track. Align trips with curriculum and contact venues early on. Discuss activities with someone that works at the location. They will likely have tips and critical elements for you to consider. Plan some field trips with the sole intention of being fun. Many trips will center around academics, but simply enjoying each other’s company will help form the community of your classroom. Starting the year off this way helps with bonding; the same goes for the end of the year.
Preparation will keep things smooth. There’s much to consider regarding taking a group of students and adults out into the world. There is a lot of room for mistakes, and you will make some. You will also learn from your mistakes. It’s a good idea to check in with the office and other teachers to see how a field trip is handled. Different schools have different ways of doing things. There might be strict rules, like authorization of travel or specific forms to be used. You will need documentation whether you’re leaving school grounds or watching a movie. Even putting on a TV show might call for clearance, and it’s better to have it than not.
Send the forms out sooner than you’d think. Two to three weeks is perfect unless given at the beginning of the year when you’d replace it with a reminder. Some will come back immediately (such as when you send them to a parent’s cell phone), while others will wait until the last minute. If you send a newsletter, include the link, physical copy, and reminder for the date. If and when money is involved, keep track of it. Have a class list ready to know who needs to turn in what. Some students may be unable to afford the cost, even if minor, and have a plan for when this occurs. Speak with the principal to know what the protocol is.
Before departure, discuss any critical issues with the volunteers (diabetes, behavioral traits, or allergies). Consider parking, weather attire, downtime, and activities that will be taking place. Chaperones will need access to the slips of their students in case of an emergency. Organizing the forms before and day of will need consideration as well as how the adults will keep track of them.
You will have fun and create memories that last a lifetime. Things will go wrong; just expect it. Do your best to cover your bases, and know something will surprise you. Let the office know you will be out, and check in with the librarian or any other support staff that could be expecting you. Make sure to bring snacks, and keep a first aid kit handy. Stay flexible and lean into the flow (with authority) because changes will be needed. Safety first, and make sure it’s fun.
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