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Chapter 9

Plan Field Trips William Allan Kritsonis, PhD


Field trips are an extension of the classrooms education program. If well planned and properly supervised, they can be exciting and enriching learning experiences for the class. Creativity is unleashed when learning moves from the four-walled classroom to the classroom of the world. Field trips offer children an opportunity to learn by seeing, touching, and exploring what they read about in books. As children gaze upon historic monuments or retrace the footsteps of bygone heroes, as they observe intricate conveyor belts manipulate products in a factory, or as they stand before huge printing presses spitting news copy with lightening speed, they discover life and their appreciation of the community, state, and nation in which they live. If a field trip is going to be successful, careful planning is essential. Children feel a part of the total experience if they are allowed to help plan the field trip. Guide the class in the planning stages by outlining the academic subject students are currently studying and pointing out exactly what they can expect to observe while on the field excursion. Schedule field trips well in advance. Consult the principal or the central administration at least six weeks prior to short field trips and three to four months prior to extended field trips. If extended field trips are planned, the teacher and principal must hold parent conferences or a meeting to explain in detail all teacher, school, parent, and student responsibilities for the field excursion. Be familiar with the legalities involved in taking such trips, and inform parents or other sponsoring groups of various responsibilities. Post notices informing other faculty members of the class field trip. Furnish a concise statement and outline to the principal approximately three weeks before the scheduled trip. In the event changes are necessary, plans can be modified in time to preserve the excursion. Strengthen student participation during the trip by signing groups of children to specific study phases of the adventure so all children gain fully from the learning 26

experience. These assignments may be issued a week or two prior to the trip. Teachers must realize the importance of traveling to unfamiliar places in advance of scheduled field trips. Teachers responsible for securing buses should do so a week or two in advance so that the necessary paperwork is submitted prior to transportation deadlines. Being familiar with travel distances help in determining departure time, arrival time, and time of return to the school. Also, other information may be discovered that will expose unforeseen problems and give a clearer idea of what the teacher should expect. Be sure to inform pull-out program teachers and ancillary staff about students who will not be attending their class that day. In addition, provide the cafeteria supervisor with a list of students who may need a sack lunch. Make sure the teacher has all necessary medications or has made arrangements for medications to be administered to the child. Caution is advised in this area. If a child has a medical condition, the teacher must be aware of it prior to the field trip. Before the day of the field trip, stress to the children the conduct and behavior that will be expected of them. Send a letter to parents explaining rules and regulations for student conduct and behavior. In this informational letter, tell parents that the children will be representing their homes, school, and community and suggest that parents discuss appropriate field trip behavior with their child. This makes the teachers job easier and solves potential problems. A permission form must accompany the policies and regulations letter. Have the parent sign three copies. They keep one copy for themselves and return two copies to the school. Send one copy to the principal and keep one on file in the classroom. Under no circumstance should a child be allowed to travel on the field trip without the specific, written consent of parents or guardians. A male and female from the faculty should accompany the students on the field trip. Due to safety issues, some school districts require parents who will be attending the fieldtrip to undergo a criminal background check. Make sure parents are aware of the school's policies and procedures concerning this matter before the day of the trip. Each teacher must not be expected to be responsible for more than 35 elementary age youngsters. Under no circumstances should two teachers be responsible for more than 27

70 children unless, of course, a parent offers to help chaperone - in which case no more than 12 children should be assigned to the parent. Unless they have had supervisory experience with children, parents must NOT be expected by certified teachers to perform professional duties. Discourage use of private vehicles for field trip transportation. If, however, no alternative can be found, ensure that all vehicles have proper insurance coverage and meet current safety regulations. Seek assistance from local police authorities in checking the safety of cars, drivers, and insurance coverages. Do not assume the principal will check everything, for most principals are not auto mechanics by trade. School system buses are generally inspected by the transportation department, but it is a good idea to check again for proper ventilation and other conditions to ensure the childrens safety. It must be the teachers professional judgment that safe and adequate transportation is being provided by conscientious adult drivers. Do not allow any child to exit the transportation vehicle until told to do so. Children must thoroughly understand that only their teacher is to give permission to exit the transporting vehicle. Emphasize to the students that they are to remain with their assigned group during the trip and are to conduct themselves properly at all times. Stress that yelling at passengers in other vehicles or holding items (including arms) out of the windows is strictly forbidden. Plan meaningful follow up activities for the class to reinforce learning. Have the class write letters to the host of the place they visited, summarizing their learning experiences and expressing appreciation for being given such an opportunity. These can be in long-hand, but they should be accompanied by a typewritten letter from the teacher. This small courtesy ensures future invitations. As a special consideration, the class and teacher could write letters of appreciation to any person who helped furnish transportation and others who contributed to the success of the field trip. During informal discussions involving all children in the class, evaluate the field trip to determine its success. Submit to the principal a report of this discussion, highlighting the educational merits of the field trip as seen through the childrens eyes. 28

The principal can then make a personal assessment of its success. A Thought in Words Education commences at the mothers knee, and every word spoken within the hearsay of little children tends towards the formation of character. Horace Ballou

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