Friday, December 12, 2014


Many of my fondest memories from school as a child are related to amazing field trips that were taken.  Some of these trips still live on as tangible memories -- like my membership card in the Junior Audobon Society after I correctly identified some specific number of birds at a local sanctuary which I still have, just in case I need to prove membership, I suppose.  Other field trips were special because of who was along on the trip.  (I suppose I could include marching with the marching band - in full wool uniforms - in the Bicentennial parade in Philadelphia in July, 1976 as one of those memorable bus trips, right?)  

Sometimes the field trips came to us - like the time that my biology teacher, Mr. Gribosh, witnessed a car hit a pregnant deer on the way to school and got permission to bring in the deer for dissection.  I'm sure his lesson plans didn't include that dissection that day, but I remember it as if it were yesterday!

 Field Tripping

 Somehow, somewhere, the value of field trips has been minimized to the point that districts no longer consider the importance or potential of such a learning experience.  While field trips are costly -- consider the cost of busing entire classes, paying the driver to sit with said bus while the tripping happens, and paying admission charges for entire busloads of students -- the larger excuse used by many districts is that they "can't afford the time."

Teachers recognize the need for authentic learning experiences.  So much so, that teachers are willing to PLAN a trip -- which is no easy feat -- in addition to all of their regular work.  Consider what is involved in a field trip these days:

1.  Identify the standard, show relevance of destination to identified standard.
2.  Complete proposal paperwork for administrator, school board, and whomever requires approval.
3.  Notify school nurses and determine who has travel restrictions, requires medical interventions during the day, and know the concerns relative to allergies, sun sensitivity, asthma, etc.  Request a nurse for an additional travel buddy if there is a specific concern.
4.  Write a memo and permission slip explaining field trip purpose, relevance, and details to parents.
5.  Try not to offend parents who volunteer to go as chaperones who are not on the "approved volunteer list," carefully explaining that they require $60 worth of clearances and school board approval to be on the bus.
6.  In elementary land, create groups, laminate nametags, punch holes, and label students. 
7.  Make sure everyone has a lunch, and that the peanut allergy kid is not in the same group as John Planter or Skippy or Jif.
8.  Collect permission slips, confirm with everyone that you will be out of the building, alert the cafeteria that their count will be down by 25 or 50 or whatever number of students..
9.  Go on the trip, assure that all students are supervised at all times, that everyone is safe and protected, and that all learning has an assigned standard to justify the trip at all.
10.  Arrive hours before school starts, return hours after it ends.
11.  Know that every single minute was worth it for the trip, that the kids will remember 40 years from now, hoping that the memory is from something related to the standard, and not that someone was left behind at the panda exhibit.

There are a lot of missed opportunities.  It almost seems as if there should be awards given for people willing to embark on a journey on a big yellow bus with entire classes of students. 

Are schools doing a disservice when it comes to the use of field trips?  I'm not the only one asking the question.

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