A successful field trip takes planning. Follow these steps to be sure you’re well prepared for a smooth day away that’s memorable for all the right reasons.
1. Determine the educational goals for this field trip.
The most exciting and memorable field trips are the ones that bring theoretical classroom learning to life. A field trip should engage students’ senses and encourage learning through hands-on experiences. With this in mind, ask yourself a few questions:
- What do you hope your field trip will accomplish?
- How will it enhance your curriculum?
- What will the students do on the trip? What will they learn?
This is the information-gathering phase. You are looking for a field trip experience that will meet your educational goals while conforming to your school’s policies and procedures for trips away from school.
- Consult the school or district calendar to avoid scheduling conflicts.
- Get any necessary approvals for going on a field trip.
- Research field trip venues, looking for sites that are field trip friendly, affordable, and appropriate to your curriculum or subject matter.
- Conduct Internet research. Use broad search terms like “science field trips [in your area]” or “educational group trips.”
- Ask other teachers or group leaders where they’ve gone.
- Draw upon your own experience to choose a location.
Once you’ve chosen a venue for your field trip, find out all you can about the site’s resources, programs, and procedures for group visits. For example:
- Special programs. Many history and art museums, science centers, environmental learning areas, and cultural sites offer special programs for field trip groups – everything from guided tours to customized workshops. Find out what various sites offer and select one that will help you plan a meaningful field trip.
- Advance reservations. Most field trip venues require advance reservations for large groups, especially if you want to take advantage of staff-led activities. Be aware that some popular sites will not admit groups without prior registration. Make note of any deadlines for deposits, paperwork, head counts, and online registration, and be sure to meet those deadlines.
- Cost. Cost is a significant factor for many families. You will need to know:
- What is the admission cost? Is there a discount for student and youth groups?
- Does your school, school district, or organization subsidize costs when a student can’t afford the field trip?
- Does the venue offer scholarships, discounts, or free admission based on need? How do groups apply for assistance?
- Do teachers and chaperones qualify for discounts or free admission?
When calculating costs for the field trip, remember to factor in not just admission fees but auxiliary expenses as well—such as transportation, special supplies or materials, lunch, and a visit to the gift shop.
- Chaperones. Many venues specify a chaperone-to-student ratio for groups. This ratio may vary depending on the age of the students. Find out your site’s policy and comply with it.
- Services and facilities. Ask if the site offers bus parking, a room for eating lunch, a secure area for coats and personal possessions, etc. Make note of any policies for reserving these facilities.
- Try to actually visit the venue to get a feel for its layout and offerings. If it’s not possible to visit physically, take advantage of virtual tours, brochures, maps, and other guides so you are familiar with the site.
- Select a theme for your field trip and plan your visit around that theme. You don’t want to arrive at the venue and wander aimlessly through exhibits that aren’t relevant to your subject matter.
- Decide which exhibits and activities you want to use and make sure they will be available on the day you’re planning to visit.
- If you have students with special developmental or physical needs, now is the time to communicate with site staff about any special accommodations your group may require.
- Work with designated facility staff to plan appropriate activities for your group.
- Schedule your day, including lunch, bathroom breaks, free time, and planned activities.
- Register for your visit—including any workshops or tours that you want to add to your visit—according to the location’s policies and procedures.
Now that you’ve selected a site and reserved the day, you will need to attend to logistics at home:
- Get official approval from your school and/or district and file any required paperwork.
- As soon as you have approval, send a letter home detailing the following:
- Date of the field trip
- The educational purpose of the trip
- The destination, with a physical description of the site
- The planned activities
- Any special preparations the parents and students need to make for that day, such as special clothing, boots, lunches, money, sunscreen, gloves, backpacks, etc.
- The cost per child for the trip, and the date by which the parents need to send the money to the school
- Departure and return time and location for the children
You might also use this letter to recruit volunteer chaperones for the field trip.
- Send permission slips and medical emergency forms home at least one month in advance, with a deadline that gives you at least one week to firm up your plans and make last minute adjustments.
- Secure your chaperones and communicate with them about their duties.
- Keep copies of the permission slips and medical emergency forms in one easily-accessible place (like a binder), and designate one responsible adult to be the keeper of these documents throughout the field trip.
- Secure transportation.
- A few days prior to the trip, confirm registration, lunch arrangements, chaperones, and transportation.
- Let the school’s foodservice know about the trip so they can adjust inventories and/or pack lunches to send with the class.