Tips on planning a Focused Field Trip
Want to add excitement and adventure to your field trip? Want to make learning new skills and concepts fun while reinforcing classroom topics? Want a trip that is memorable for the kids and for the school? Don’t get trapped in following your predecessors or don’t just “go with the flow’. Be creative, be thoughtful and you’ll stand out amongst your peers. It certainly takes some serious planning and teamwork to reach a successful well-focused field trip. Here are 5 pre-trip steps on how maximize the learning value of any field trip. This applies to planning assemblies as well.
STEP 1: MAKE CONNECTIONS BETWEEN THE TRIP AND THE CURRICULUM
The secret to planning a focused field trip is to make connections between the trip and your curriculum, learning goals and other projects. There are a few steps here.
Have a curriculum for the term ready, or at least an idea of the major concepts you’ll be working on. Will you be focusing on one main topic or will you be involving multiple concepts - from math, science, language and history to life skills. Trips have to be integrated into the big picture so that their lessons aren’t lost. A trip to an amusement park will always be fun, but with planning and preparation, it can also be a vehicle for learning about topics ranging from engineering to why we have to obey the rules. Ask,
- What are the goals of the lessons for the term (or goals for the grade)
- What are the difficult concepts
Or you may even build your curriculum around your field trip(s) by listing an overview of all the field trips you might take during the term.
Research and create a list of Field Trips: Think of places to visit, and then con- sider each prospective place next to the list of concepts your lessons are focused on. Once you have many ideas for possible field trips, you and your team can begin to narrow down the list. For each idea, ask,
- What can we see or do there?
- What can we learn about there?
- How does each place correlate with the learning goals for the term and how they provide opportunities for links between the trips.
STEP 2: WRITE DOWN THE GOALS
Every field trip presents a host of learning opportunities, which is why it’s so important to focus on the goals and write them on paper. Otherwise, you may miss the reason why you are there and the core concepts to learn may be so diffuse that they won’t register with the children. Writing down goals will help to ensure that field trips reinforce larger learning objectives, and to think through projects and activities associated with the field trip.
STEP 3: GATHER THE TROOPS - IT’S A TEAM EFFORT!
You must involve staff and the children in the planning process so that they feel a sense of ownership. Everyone must understand the objectives, goals and their roles.
- Determine what steps of the trip require teamwork
- Engage other teachers and leaders in the planning process, even if it is outside the subject area. A math course can be integrated with science lesson; history with English; art with architecture or social studies
- Engage your students and divide into teams
- Engage parents, since you may need chaperones
- Split up roles and responsibilities
- Build teams within your classroom or cross-teams between the various groups
Remember that you have separate audiences to engage—the kids, of course, but also your leaders, counselors and helpers. For each audience, your planning should cover the three stages of a field trip: the pre-trip, the field trip itself, and the post-trip.
STEP 4: VISIT FIRST
Visiting the location in advance of the trip is a smart idea. You will uncover new learning opportunities, staffing needs, and find supporting
literature to take back to the class. It will also identify opportunities and challenges before the kids get there as well as help establish logistics, such as the location of bathrooms, dining options, first aid, etc. You may find onsite specialists who you can engage for interviews during the trip. Maybe you’ll find out that the destination is not appropriate for your group.
STEP 5: TRIP PREPARATION WITH KIDS
Work any collected materials into class activities in preparation for the trip. Below are some other ways to get kids prepared and excited in the days before the trip:
- Give kids input into what they’ll be doing on the trip
- Ask them “What would you like to see or learn there?”
- Prepare the children by teaching observation skills so that they can get the most out of the experience
For elementary aged kids:
- Start including books about the field trip
- Try simple pattern writing exercises like “At the aquarium, they have a _____.”
- Have the children make collages by finding pictures of “Things I might see at the aquarium.”
- Introduce related vocabulary
- Do journal activities that relate to the upcoming trip or destination. You might ask kids to “draw a picture of their favorite animal”
- Create a scavenger hunt list together
- Have the kids print out and paste maps in their journals. Point out some of the interesting sights the class will pass along the way, such as rivers, bridges or landmarks
Other higher level activities for middle schoolers and high schoolers:
- Try some more advanced pattern writing activities from books and poems related to the destination
- Visit related web sites and prepare questions for an onsite interview
- Bring digital cameras on the trip so that kids can take pictures for a collage
- Create a web page to use as a lesson plan, record pre-visit information and provide related links for the kids
- Create a quick presentation project using Powerpoint that you’ll return to after the trip when you have more information;
or a photo-editing activity to give the kids some preliminary experience before working with their trip photos
STEP 6: THE VISIT ITSELF
During the day of the trip, be prepared with some key activities to enhance the experience while keeping in mind that the trip is supposed to be fun of course. Make assignments short. Here are some ideas:
- Work time into the day for sharing the cameras and taking pictures you can use in specific later projects
- Have periods for recording thoughts in your journals. You can take a 5- or 10-minute break to have everyone do an immersion writing activity; or take two minutes after each main exhibit hall for the kids to record all the things they saw
- Try to schedule an interviewing project with someone at the site, such as a curator or the person who maintains the roller coaster
- On the ride back, have the kids do some writing or drawing activities in their journals, such as recording the five things they liked most and why
- Ask the kids to call out all the questions they still have after the trip. Record them as they’re called out—you’ll end up with some great ideas for follow-up research projects on the Web or in the library
POST TRIP - the planning doesn’t stop here.
The sky’s the limit on post trip projects. Classroom discussion and group think work begins. You can build web pages, presentations or write articles for the school newspaper, create a class bulletin that includes pictures, videos and writing. Just be sure not to miss the opportunity to use the trip on mastering skills and tying everything back to the goals of the field trip and key concepts.
Click on the fieldtrip tab for more ideas.