Taking School On the Road: Field Trip Checklist
Your community and surrounding areas are treasure troves for a fun and educational field trip. Whether you are visiting a museum, nature center, historic site, weather station, factory, or other point of interest, here are some essential steps to keep in mind when planning your trip.
Assess your curriculum and your options
Consider upcoming lessons in science, language, history, or other subject, particularly those in which your student(s) may have a strong interest. Is there a topic they might like to explore in more depth? Or one that has generated lots of conversation? A good hands-on experience can provide them with the expertise you don’t have. Get your students involved in searching for appropriate destinations for your next field trip! Ask them to check bulletin boards at libraries, bookstores, coffee shops, and community centers for field trip ideas. Click here for additional links and ideas.
Assess the facility and its programs
E-mail the facility with your questions or a request for a phone call to discuss scheduling a visit. Have questions like these ready when you talk to the on-site representative:
- Will there be a structured presentation and how long will it be?
- Is there a hands-on experience where children can handle materials and explore?
- Is the program designed for a specific age group? If the program is for second through fourth grade, don’t assume you can have younger or older children tag along. Ask the site personnel what options are available for others to participate and if additional parental supervision is required.
- How many chaperones will your group need to provide, and what are the expectations for chaperones? (Some facilities offer drop-off classes for students. Some programs are designed for adults to learn alongside the students.)
- What accommodations do they make for special needs?
- Are there any new exhibits or special opportunities for your group?
Also, talk about what your students are studying and ask what things at the site might be of particular interest to them right now. Some program specialists will go out of their way to connect with your children’s interests!
Prepare your students and parents
Help everyone, including your hosts, to have a more fulfilling experience by discussing expectations beforehand. Students will have both personal and educational concerns. If you don’t address the personal concerns ahead of time, they may detract from the educational experience. For example, let them know what to expect in the way of snacks, lunch and bathroom breaks, how to behave.
Encourage students to explore the location’s website or brochures so they will know what to expect before they arrive. Have each student prepare three questions about the facility and keep the list of questions handy to refer to during the field trip.
Parents will have a very different set of concerns. Be sure each family is prepared with a list of any materials they will need for the trip. Be clear about who is eligible to attend the event, particularly if age or number restrictions apply. Discuss arrangements for younger or older children who may be traveling with the group and clearly define the responsibilities of each adult attending.
Talk with parents about travel and logistics for the day. Groups arriving in multiple vehicles will need specifics about where to rendezvous at the site. Set a meeting time twenty minutes ahead of your scheduled tour.
If you have a large group, consider using the buddy system to allow students to explore while keeping in contact with a chaperone. And make sure everyone is in agreement about how much time will be spent on nonessentials like a trip to the gift shop.
Monitor the paper trail
Keep all the pertinent paperwork for your field trip in one place. Here are a few items you will need at your fingertips:
- Have medical release forms and permission slips for any students who aren’t accompanied by a guardian.
- Keep any tickets, lunch vouchers, or parking tags in a folder to distribute at appropriate times.
- Be sure you have the site address and phone number and the phone numbers of any other drivers.
Be prepared for the fun!
Spend some time discussing with your students what sights you may see, how the trip relates to their studies, and what your students are most excited about. Remember that enthusiasm is contagious!
Enjoy retelling the experience
At the end of your visit, be sure to thank the onsite personnel for sharing their talents and expertise. Encourage students to mention highlights of their day. On the way home, encourage students to brainstorm ways they can record and demonstrate what they learned from the field trip. Enjoy calling on everyone’s experiences in the days ahead as you continue to explore this field of study.
Vicki Dincher holds a master’s degree in biology. Her four children, all homeschooled, have earned or are pursuing graduate degrees in the sciences. Vicki has taught high school science, including Advanced Placement courses, since 1995. She remains active in her local homeschool community as director of Creative Home Educators Support Services (CHESS) and creative director for Encore! Home School Productions. Vicki and her husband, Jerry, live in Camp Hill, PA. Vicki is the author of Exploring Creation with Physical Science Student Notebook, Exploring Creation with General Science Student Notebook, Exploring Creation with Biology Student Notebook, and Exploring Creation with Advanced Biology: The Human Body.