Our local zoo hosts a free day each year in celebration of Earth Day. It's become a third grade tradition for us to go each year. It's super super busy since it's free admission, but there are a lot of cool booths and freebies available to the kids so it's worth dealing with the chaos! Hopefully this year we'll get some great weather.
In sharing field trip tips with our new teacher and my student teacher I thought this might be a good blog post. We tend to get a lot of compliments from bus drivers and from the places we visit on how well-behaved our kids are and I think it goes back to good planning and organization. The less chaos the better behaved the kids will be!
- Communicate with parent volunteers ahead of time. Some field trips require as many parent volunteers as possible and for others we don't have room for parents to join us. I try to send notes home as soon as the field trip is scheduled so that parents can plan accordingly. If you are having parents volunteer to help, send a note several days in advance to let them know the expectations. Do you expect them to ride the bus or meet you there? Do they need to bring a sack lunch? What will they be expected to do during the field trip? Is there anything special they need to be prepared with? Give them as much information as possible ahead of time!
- Have the kids wear something alike. This is especially helpful for us when we go to the zoo and there are 20,000 other people there! Our school does anti-bullying shirts, so we usually have our kids wear those shirts or one that is the same color. One year all of the kids purchased green tees for the Christmas program and we had them reuse those shirts for Earth Day. It makes things a lot easier for parents and teachers (especially if they don't know all the kids they're supervising).
- Send notes home with field trip expectations. Let the kids and parents know the expectations a few days ahead. These notes should tell what the students should wear (a certain shirt? comfy shoes?), if they should bring a lunch (disposable items?), if they can bring spending money (I always make a note that it is the student's responsibility and not the teacher or group leader's job to keep track of money or buy them stuff they want), and arrival and departure times. I go over this note in detail with the kids so that they know what I expect ahead of time.
- Have an info packet for volunteers. We assemble an information packet for each parent volunteer / group and we distribute these when we get to our destination. This includes a schedule for the day, a list of expectations, the names of the students in their group, and the phone numbers of the teachers and the school office in case of emergency. ***It is also a good idea to get the phone numbers of the parents who are leading groups in case you need to contact them at some point during the day. (This is something we learned last year after a bad experience!)*** We also encourage our groups to go to the gift shop in the middle of the day when it isn't busy rather than the end of the day when they get held up in long lines.
- Set expectations for behavior ahead of time. We always have a chat with the kids about behavior expectations before leaving for a field trip. We talk about being respectful, showing manners, following directions, and staying with their group. I've never had any issues with kids seriously misbehaving, but it's always good to communicate your expectations ahead of time and what the consequences will be for misbehavior.
- Bring books for the bus ride. We make our kids bring a book to read on the bus ride to and from the field trip. This keeps them quite (for the most part) and makes the bus ride a lot more pleasant for everyone involved. If the bus is staying, we have the kids just leave their books on the bus in their seats and that solves the whole seating issue when it's time to go.
Do you have any good field trip tips or hints that help the day go by smoothly? Please share!