Thursday, May 23, 2013

Tricks of the Trade Thursday: Field Trips

It's Thurfriday!

Definition: (noun)- Thursday before a long weekend; Thursday that feels like a Friday.

Yep, that's right.  I have Friday off, so today is my last day with the kiddos until next Wednesday!  Can anyone say 5 day weekend?  Woo hoo!

I'm so pumped.  Now, don't be too jealous.  We only have the super long weekend because we did not use all of our snow days, and we still have to go until June 22.

Still, I am super pumped for the "break" since I am going camping with my parents and some friends.  It should be a really nice getaway.

Though today is like Friday for me, it is actually Thursday, which means it's time for Tricks of the Trade with myself and Jessica from Joy in the Journey.  This week's focus is Field Trips.

Plan Trips Early

I enjoy field trips, but they take a lot of work and a lot of time to plan.  Last year, my principal required four trips, which meant a lot of planning.  As a first year teacher who was also new to the state, I didn't know anything about where to go and how to plan trips.  As a result, some of my trips were planned quickly and without much research.  Three of them turned out okay and one was awesome, but I still realized I needed to plan ahead in the future.

This year, I did just that.  As soon as the school year started and Heather (grade level partner and friend) and I were reunited, we decided to plan our trips for the year.  We brainstormed ideas, did some research, and submitted our proposals to our principal and the board by SEPTEMBER 28!!  That's only about 3 weeks after school started. 

Although we ended up having to change the date of one of the trips, it was still well worth it to plan way ahead of time.  Some of the main benefits were that we got to choose whichever dates we wanted, since the locations weren't booked up.  Also, we ended up getting out of having to pay an extra bus fee because even though the trip is not until June, we got it approved before the fee was implemented, so it does not apply.  Long story short, we saved ourselves the students $150!

Name Tags and Colored Dots

This is a quick and easy tip.  On trips, I usually have my students wear name tags.  This helps the chaperons learn the children's names and allows guides and other leaders to call on students for answers more easily.  They can just look at the name tag, rather than having to say, "You, right there.  The one in the blue shirt.  No the other blue shirt."  
In order to make things even easier for myself and hopefully for you, I made a set of color-coded name tags for students to wear.  My thought is that each chaperon and the students in his/her group can wear the same colored name tag.  That way, the students remember what group they are in, the parents and guides know the students' names, and the whole group can stick together.  Also, I included a blank for the school name to be written on, so that if a student gets lost, they can be reunited with their group more easily.

My plan is to laminate the name tags, so they are more durable and re-usable.  I will then make hole punches in the tops of them and thread yarn through to make a necklace.  I may even try to thread two tags onto one piece, so that each student's name and color will be visible from the front and the back.

You can grab the name tags for free by clicking the picture below.  I included 8 of each different color and a black and white version that could either be used as is or printed on colored paper.

Don't Be Stingy with Chaperons

I know some teachers prefer not to have too many parents attend trips because they don't want to have to deal with them.  However, that is not my feeling.  I would rather have a good number of chaperons, specifically a 1:4 adult-student ratio if at all possible.  Having enough chaperons allows for smaller groups of students, which makes life easier for both the chaperons and me.  Each parent only has to learn the names of and keep track of a few students.  Also, if I have enough chaperons to divide the kids into small groups of 4-5, I feel free to float around to supervise the whole group, to speak to the guides, and to handle behavior or other incidents one-on-one if necessary.  

Finally, having a lot of chaperons for each trip allows for more parents to feel involved and for their kids to feel special for having their parent with them on the trip.  That may not be a big deal in the older grades, but my firsties get excited when their parents come.

Invite Parents of Kids with Allergies

My school has a policy that parents of students with allergies get preference when it comes to chaperoning trips.  The school nurse explains this policy at Back to School Night, so all parents are aware from the get-go.  Then, when chaperons are needed, the teachers automatically ask the parents of kids with allergies to see if they are able and willing to attend.  Only then are other parents invited.  

I would have a hard time doing this to a child. 
There are several reasons for this policy.  First, the school nurse is so busy that she is not able to attend trips and the district has limited subs.  Also, while some teachers (including myself) are trained to use the epi-pen, parents of students with allergies are likely more familiar with their child's symptoms and are more prepared to administer treatment.  Finally, if a child has an allergic reaction who are they going to want to be with them to comfort them and help them?  Their mom, dad, or other guardian.

This same policy also works for other things like children with epilepsy or special needs.  This year, I always invite the parents of an epileptic girl to attend the trips before I invite other parents.

As much as you might be thinking this is a totally unfair policy, it really isn't.  It's a safeguard to help make sure children get the care they need.  Also, despite having several students with allergies and a girl with epilepsy this year, I have still been able to include many other parents on trips and in other capacities, so no one has gotten disgruntled.

Favorite Destinations and Trip Ideas

  • Newark Museum (Newark, NJ)- They have many different programs for all ages and grade levels.  My kids enjoyed the Backyard Bugs program last year, especially because they got to hold millipedes and touch cockroaches.  Gross!
  • Great Swamp Outdoor Education Center (Morris County, NJ)- Their habitat program, "Whose Home?" is fantastic.  It fit perfectly with the science unit.  The kids were so excited to share what they learned about habitats and to see some of them first hand as they walked through the swamp.
  • Zoos- Zoo trips are great fun!  I still remember having a blast at the zoo when I went in 7th grade, even though I ripped my pants on a wooden chair.  Hehe.  Kids love animals and most zoos have great educational programs for kids.
  • Apple or Pumpkin Picking- This is always fun in the fall.  Kids enjoy picking their own fruit, going on hayrides, and exploring farms.  From an educational standpoint, these kinds of trips enhance science lessons on plants and seasons.
  • Theater Performances- Plays are great field trip options because they are low stress.  Once the kids are seated and the show begins, they are usually engaged until the final bow.  That means minimal behavior issues.  Plays can make stories come to life and inspire students to pursue their own creative interests.  Last year, the whole first grade enjoyed The Nutcracker and some other classes went to see the play versions of popular stories such as Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.

Those are my tricks of the trade for field trips.  What are yours?  Link up below to share.
Also, be sure to stop by to check out Jessica's ideas.  

Joy in the Journey

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