Field trips. For some teachers, just seeing these words can jog memories of late busses and irresponsible chaperones. And that’s completely understandable; field trips can be a tricky trapeze walk of timing and cooperation. But as someone who works to organize and create enjoyable field trips for a living, I’ve picked up on a trick or two over the years. Below are some tips to help make your next field trip a success.
Answer a Question: When you’re picking a field trip site, you have to ask yourself a simple question: “What do I want my kids to learn from this?” Do you want them to learn about the history of Milwaukee? Do you want them to learn about the natural world, or how agriculture has affected today’s economy and ecosystem? Do you simply want your kids to have a blast? Whatever the answer to that question may be, it will help narrow your search immensely.
Book Early: The top reason teachers get turned away from field trips (on our end) is because the dates they want to visit are already booked and unavailable. Think of it this way: every day you’re thinking about booking that field trip, another teacher is writing the check. I recommend booking anywhere from three to six months in advance, even more for popular places. Additionally, if you really like the venue and are confident you’ll be visiting roughly the same time next year, let your contact know at the end of your trip. Most places love early reservations and will gladly save your spot for next year.
Read the Policies and Procedures: The necessary evil of booking field trips. Policies and Procedures are often seen as the “Terms of Agreement” of field trips, but I cannot stress how important it is that you look through any copy of Policies and Procedures you receive with the finest-toothed comb. These pages will contain information on cancellations, headcount changes, payment due dates, and all the other little details that could potentially create headaches if ignored.
Keep Parents & Chaperones Updated: When asking for chaperones, it’s very important that you receive their contact information, particularly their email. Make sure to update your chaperones with schedules, rules, and expectations multiple times before the start of the trip. A personal recommendation would be to ask for chaperones immediately after booking, either through child hand-out or email, and setting a hard cut-off date of three to four weeks before the date of the trip.
Know Your Plan for Food: Nothing will sour a day-trip quite like realizing you left the lunches at school. Many venues have limited eating space, so it’s very possible that your schedule for the day will be centered on your lunchtime. Make sure your adults know exactly what the plan is for lunch.