Field Trip Guide

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Why Take Field Trips?

Field trips expand children's learning through active hands-on experience with the rich resources of the local community. Field trips increase student knowledge and understanding of a subject and add realism to the topic of study.

Good planning must precede field trips. Careful attention should be given to trip selection, previsit preparation, the trip itself, appropriate follow up, and evaluation. When considering a field trip, teachers are advised to first consult with their administrator regarding existing school board policies and follow those recommended procedures.

Trip Selection

  1. Identify the rationale, objectives and plan of evaluation for the field trip.
  2. Select the site to be visited. Contact the educational coordinator for the site and arrange the date and time. Obtain the pre-trip information package if one is available. Record addresses, directions, contact persons, phone numbers, email addresses, etc.
  3. Conduct a pre-visit to familiarize yourself with the major features of the field trip. Purchase postcards and posters. Take digital photographs to share with students prior to the visit. Explore the exhibition(s) you plan to visit to get ideas for pre field trip activities.

Logistics Planning

  1. Apply for administrative approval from departmental chairperson, curriculum administrator, or building principal
  2. File requisition for bus transportation reservation
  3. Make arrangements for meal or sack lunch if needed
  4. Develop schedule for the day
  5. Arrange for special equipment -supplies, film, video camera, digital camera
  6. Prepare name tags for students and chaperones
  7. Collect money for admission fees
  8. Compose parent permission letter including
    • Date and location of field trip and transportation arrangements
    • Educational purpose of field trip
    • Provision for special needs students
    • Cost
    • Clothing for the trip
    • Lunch arrangements
    • Money needed
    • Trip schedule
    • Whether a child will need prescribed medication administered
    • Parent signature
  9. Send a letter to parents or include in the class newsletter a request for help as chaperones, communicate assigned duties/responsibilities, review field trip objectives, and list activities and schedule.
  10. Provide alternative arrangements for pupils who will not be going on the trip.
  11. Inform the cafeteria staff if students will be away during the lunch hour.
  12. Submit a list of students who will be attending the field trip to other teachers if their schedules will be affected.
  13. Collect the money for the trip and deposit it in your school's account. If required, send the advanced fee to the field trip site.
  14. Create a list of all student names and home phone numbers for use in an emergency.

Preparing Students Before the Trip

  1. Discuss the purpose of the field trip and how it relates to the current unit of study.
  2. Introduce visual observation skills. Let students describe in detail ordinary objects, like a paper clip, paintbrush, clothespin, or comb to their classmates.
  3. Introduce vocabulary words that will be used by docents during the tour.
  4. Show photographs or posters of the field trip site or related to exhibits that will be viewed.
  5. Assign students "specialists" roles in one aspect of the topic that they will be studying during the field trip. Students could be grouped in different subject areas related to the field trip topic to research (e.g., history, art, religion, science, environment, etc).
  6. Explore the Website of the location you will be visiting.
  7. As a class brainstorm a set of standards of conduct for the trip and discuss suggested spending money, lunch plans, appropriate clothing to wear for the trip including gear for rainy weather.
  8. Discuss with students how to ask good questions and brainstorm a list of open-ended observation questions to gather information during the visit. Record questions on chart paper or in student field trip journals.
  9. Overview the field trip schedule.

Final Planning

Check all permission slips the day before the field trip.

Conducting the Trip

On the day of the trip:

  • Pass out name tags
  • Divide class into small groups and assign chaperones to groups
  • Assign each student a partner
  • Place a class list and student emergency forms in a folder
  • Secure a cell phone if possible
  • Take along an emergency kit
  • Take inventory of food, specific equipment, and other supplies pertinent to the particular field trip

Activities that will Occur During the Field Trip

Plan activities that allow students to work alone, in pairs or small groups. Activities might include:

  • Adventure game "Journey to the World of..."
  • Mystery with clues provided
  • Sketch pages with partial drawings of objects found in the exhibits for students to complete the drawings based on their observations
  • Peepholes in construction paper - cut different sized round holes in construction paper and have students view a part of the exhibition through the peepholes. Ask them to describe what they see, what they notice now that they missed before, and how their perspective changes with each new view
  • Field notebooks for recording answers to prepared questions based on clues
  • Hand drawn postcards to write near the end of the tour that will summarize the field trip visit

Provide time for students to observe, ask questions, and record key words, ideas and phrases as journal entries in their Field book after viewing each exhibit

Ask follow-up questions as students make observations and listen to presentations.

  • How are these two objects different from one another?
  • What clues does this artifact provide about…
  • In what ways do these two objects relate to one another?
  • If you could change one thing in this exhibit, what would it be?
  • Pretend you are an archaeologist in the future who is observing this object. What would you be able to conclude about the culture of the past?
  • Expand the title or name of this object into a detailed caption (sentence or paragraph) in your Field book.
  • Describe the setting in which you might have found this object.
  • Which object will be of greatest value in a hundred years? Why?
  • List the objects in the exhibit order of the story they tell or usefulness.
  • Which object took the most time and effort to produce?
  • Pretend you are a character in this exhibit. Tell us as much as you can about your life.
  • What does this object tell us about the person's attitude toward...?

Schedule a particular segment of the field trip for a scavenger hunt where students look for particular objects and record them in their Field book or on an observation sheet.

Provide time for students to work in their Field Book writing questions, describing favorite displays or making sketches of artifacts, structures, scenery, etc. If they cannot complete their sketches, encourage them to label them for future completion as to color, detail, etc.

Provide time for students to use (tape recorder, camcorder, digital camera) for recording important resources viewed/heard.

Polling Activity: Blue Ribbon - Your Choice
After careful observation of an exhibit, ask students to discuss an exhibit and vote on an artifact, artwork that they consider to be the most valuable part of the exhibit they viewed. Then ask students to record one sentence in their Field book describing why they felt the object was of key importance.

Post-Field Trip Activities

Just as quality pre-planning is essential to the success of a field trip, planning for appropriate follow-up activities will facilitate student learning and multiply the value of hands-on experiences outside the classroom. The following activities provide a general guide when planning for post-field trip classroom experiences.

  • Provide time for students to share general observations and reactions to field trip experiences
  • Share specific assignments students completed while on the field trip.
  • Create a classroom bulletin board displaying materials developed or collected while on the field trip.
  • Develop a classroom museum that replicates and extends displays students observed on the field trip. For example, if the field trip involved an art museum, develop a classroom art museum containing student artwork.
  • Link field trip activities to multiple curricular areas. For example, students can develop vocabulary lists based on field trip observations; record field trip observations in a classroom journal; complete math problems related to actual field trip budget planning; etc.
  • Share and evaluate student assignments/activities from the Field Book.
  • Have the class compose and send thank-you letters to the field trip site host, chaperones, school administrators and other persons that supported the field trip. Include favorite objects or special information learned during the field trip.
  • Create a short news report about what happened on the field trip. Publicize the trip via an article in your local newspaper, school bulletin board, trip presentation for parent's night, or class Web page.

Evaluating the Trip

Complete a "Teacher Journal" regarding the field trip. This will provide a good reference for future field trips.

  • What was of unique educational value in this field trip?
  • Did the students meet the objectives/expectations?
  • Was there adequate time?
  • Was there adequate staff and adult supervision?
  • What might be done differently to make this an even better experience in the future?
  • What special points should be emphasized next time?
  • What special problems should be addressed in the future?
  • What would improve a visit to this site in the future?

Share the evaluation with the students, volunteers, hosts from the field trip site, and school administrators.

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