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November 8, 2012

Field Trips—More than just a Day on the Farm!

It was not until I attempted to organize my own field trips that I realized just how much darn work field trips are to plan, execute and follow up on for teachers.

After one particularly harrowing evening trip to an art exhibit with my students, I called my high school English teacher (who still teaches there . . . Hi, Karen Girvan!) to thank her for taking my class to a series of plays at the University of Maine way back when. She did this for us, a thankless group of 16 year olds, because we hadn’t had many opportunities to see theater in our small towns in rural Maine.

No biggie, right?! That’s what I thought when I was 16, anyway. It’s only now…since I’ve dealt with the world of transportation arrangement, permission slip collection, class coverage scheduling, student behavior expectation-setting, and chaperone organization…that I realize just how nice she was to do such a thing.

Since fall is a time of year when many students, big and small, are taking trips to college campuses and local farms, this post is focused on three tips to make the field trip run smoothly for everyone involved (especially you!).

  •  Plan well—and share the load: Kate M., a third grade teacher in Brooklyn, shared her team’s next steps after they met to prepare for an upcoming trip. In the chart below, notice how Kate’s team had specific steps assigned to individuals with clear due dates. This field trip was getting PLANNED! Review the entire version of Kate’s plan for her kids to see a dance performance at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) here and try using one of our Field Trip templates found here.
  • Don’t Forget the Little Things. Kate also wrote this very clear email to her colleagues where she noted small details to help make a winter ice skating trip a success. While garbage bags and consent forms may not seem like a big deal at first, when you are the adult who ends up stuck with garbage from 80 leftover lunches, you will be glad your team thought through these details!

  • Get Crystal Clear on Expectations for EVERYONE! Another teacher at Kate’s school made this slide to show their students prior to the trip.

While there are some fancy tools out there for organizing field trips (most notably, Google recently released a cool app that tells you about things to see, both popular and hidden, wherever you happen to be), we prefer the old fashioned way of making plans using Excel, Word, or Google docs.

Here are some great articles about the Google Field Trip App:

We definitely think it’s worth exploring for the content…but remember, this app will not help you with parent consent forms, money collection, and keeping students safe! Only great planning by you with your team can do that!

Together Teacher Sharing Question: How do you effectively plan field trips?

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