There are a few responsibilities teachers and/or administrators should handle regarding field trips. Here are the ones I think are pretty important.
1. Logistics. Have your ducks in a row. Make sure permission slips are signed and returned by the parents. Have exact dates, times, locations, and contact information so that the parents can reach you if they need to. Do your homework and find out how far away the place is, how long it will take to get there, what hours it is open, etc. Ask about any extra charges, if teachers and chaperones get in free, and what you might need to bring. We’ve brought extra money so that students could feed the animals, umbrellas in case of rain, and bags to collect specimens.
2. Preparation. Be prepared. My usual list includes a jacket and my back pack with the following items: a large Ziploc bag with a few paper towels in it in case anyone gets sick to their stomach (an ice cream bucket with a lid works well in vehicles), a sewing kit (three different times I’ve had to stitch up a girl’s zipper on her dress while she was in it), a first aid kit (miniature version), and hand sanitizer.
3. Information. Inform students ahead of time, and make sure they are educated about where they are going to be. Teach them about the history of where you are going or about the science of it. The more they know ahead of time, the more interesting it will be for them. They’ll learn more, ask more intelligent questions, and get way more out of it. Show them pictures, let them watch a documentary, and/or show them items they might find there.
4. Donuts. I have some wonderful patrons who, for the last three years, have provided donuts for the teachers and students on every field trip day. It’s just a fun added bonus.
5. Order. I assign seats on the bus or vans. Sometimes it’s just guys in the back and girls in the front; sometimes it’s with a buddy (older student helping a younger one), but it’s never a free-for-all. And I usually encourage the students to sit with someone else halfway through the trip or on the way home.
Inform students of how they should behave. Hopefully, the rules have been well-established at school and shouldn’t be that different in another situation, but it is still good to let students know what you expect while traveling as well as at the field trip location. On one amazing field trip, one of the workers asked us where we were from. She left, then returned with bookmarks, calendars, stickers, and a book. She gave them all to me and explained that this was one of the most well-behaved groups she’d ever had visit the establishment.
We also walk in a line two by two if it will help us stay together better, and people get out of the way and let your group through if you’re lined up and moving together. Order prevents chaos, and students can get pretty excited on a field trip.
6. Redeeming the time. This includes travel time, too. Unless it’s a really short distance to wherever we’re going, we use the time in the vans or bus wisely. We bring our music folders and sing through our program songs. We sing our scripture memory songs.
We read books, both individually or as a group, with a teacher or student reading a book aloud and showing everyone the pictures.
We look for license plates and color in a state on a map for every different state we find.
On our last trip, the students started noticing all kinds of different animals, so on the back of our maps, we began writing down every animal we saw.
7. Wise decisions. Especially when we’re at wherever we’re going, I don’t like to waste time doing stuff that the students already do on a normal day; for instance, when students ask to take a soccer ball to the beach. They can play soccer any old day at school, so why would we waste time at the beach playing soccer when there are all kinds of other things to do that we could never do at school?
8. Thankfulness. Thank the people working at the establishment. Thank the bus driver, thank the parent chaperones, and thank the students for behaving well. Hopefully, they will thank you, too.