“The most important thing I’ve learned about field trips is that the sponsor needs to be prepared to be prepared. There are no perfect field trips. Something will happen that you did not expect and will challenge your wits in the moment. The more thinking you’ve done, the better prepared you’ll be to handle what comes. But when it comes, just keep thinking.”
This made me think about all the wonderful trips I have taken with my students. Some of them were great and of course many had their moments but luckily all of them were successes.
When I first started teaching high school, I found out that special education students were not valued very much. Other students were allowed to go on field trips but it would “cost” too much for my students to go on any. After talking it over with my students (and about half of them could drive), we decided to go on our own field trip on Saturday. I invited parents to come with us and we agreed to meet at a grocery store parking lot early one Saturday morning. All of my students showed up and we carpooled for the trip. We drove to North Carolina (about an hour away) to Carl Sandburg’s home. We hiked up to the top of the mountain where my students spontaneously recited Joyce Kilmer’s poem “Trees” that they had to memorize earlier in the year. This made me so proud of my kids that it almost made me cry. After a picnic lunch, we returned home. What a successful trip this was.
Since the trip to Carl Sandburg’s home was so much fun, we decided to plan another Saturday trip. We met again on a Saturday and went up to Charlotte, NC to visit Discover Place. This is a hands-on museum with lots of interactive exhibits. The kids had fun and then we walked around Charlotte for awhile. On the way home, we couldn’t find a picnic area and finally found a rest area that was being built. There was a hole near the parking lot that we could dump charcoal and we ended up cooking our hot dogs in the barbecue pit. It was a lot of fun too.
Many years ago, I taught in a rural area where many of my high school students worked on farms which was very different from the way I grew up. I decided my students needed to see the state capitol and understand how and where our state laws were passed. Luckily my husband went with me as a chaperone on the trip. When we arrived, I got off the bus to make arrangements with the bus driver about where and when to pick us up. When I turned around, my husband had a brown paper bag and the students were dropping things in it as they got off the bus. Then my husband looked at me and told me not to ask any questions. Over the years I have learned to not ask when he makes this kind of comment. The trip to the state capitol was wonderful and all of my kids were great. That night at home I finally had a chance to ask my husband what went on when we got off the bus. He said he remembered that we would have to go through a metal detector, and most of the kids had pocket knives on them. He asked them if they would drop them in the bag so they didn’t set off the metal detectors and he would leave it on the locked bus. The students got them back when we returned to the bus. Without saying a word to me, they all realized that my husband was saving them from being in a lot of trouble.
I have taken my students to an art museum and the state museum. They have also been to a rock quarry to talk about the jobs involved in that line of work. I never realized how big a hole that is made for this until our bus drove to the bottom of this huge pit. Everything on top of the hole looked like matchbox cars. I enjoyed taking my classes to factories and mills to see how things are made and husband and I still like to do this when we go on vacation.
When I worked for the county recreation department during the summers, we took kids to many different places like the national forest, farms, roller skating, bowling and other fun places. Unfortunately I was accused of being too strict when I wanted to count the number of kids going and the number returning. The girl in charge told me that she was the boss and it was her responsibility and not mine so I needed to quit spoiling everyone’s fun by worrying about this. Well, I’m really glad it was her responsibility the two times we returned home from two trips and ended up missing a child. That is when she put me in charge of making sure all of the kids were on the bus before we left!
One year I took two classes to Carowinds amusement park one year. The other teacher who was supposed to go with me had personal issues and my administration got her off our bus and would not let her go on the trip with me. They also decided that another chaperone going with us was not allowed to go. I immediately called my husband at work (probably in hysterics) and he is so good about calming me down. Since he is the boss, he told his office that he was going on a field trip with me because I needed another chaperone. His office manager’s daughter who was on holiday from college volunteered her and her boyfriend to come too. So along with the one paraprofessional with me, there were five adults going and I felt much better. Luckily I had thought about bringing two walkie talkies with me. When we broke up into groups, we agreed at a time and place to meet to return to the bus. Later that evening, we ended up missing one student so we got everyone on the bus while we hunted for the missing student. The walkie talkies were instrumental in helping us stay in touch and the missing student was rounded up.
As Mike Rush mentioned, always prepare for the “what ifs.” I tend to think of the worst thing that could happen and what I would do if it did. It is a kind of mental fire drill that I run through. It has helped me in many situations and I’m thankful I have learned to do this. It has helped make our field trips be successful. What do you do to prepare for your field trips?
Original image: 'Weird School Bus' http://www.flickr.com/photos/17021192@N00/1368677930 by: Kevin