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Posted by AshaLee Ortiz on Dec 16, 2015
In the digital age, we have the world at our fingertips. However, nothing truly compares to experiencing something firsthand. If experience is the best teacher, then there is a strong rationale for field trips.
With the holiday season upon us, groups from schools across the nation will be performing in parades or at Bowl games. Spring break is just around the corner, and is a prime time to travel with students.
Despite this knowledge, I have been hesitant to provide my students with the same types of rewarding experiences I had on field trips in my youth. Sure, I would take my classes to district festivals, and last year even planned a rewards trip with a partner teacher to the local amusement park, but the idea of planning a larger experience for my students seemed daunting. Where would I begin?
After much discussion with my colleague (though, to be honest, it felt more like coercion), we decided it would be worthwhile to plan a performance trip out of state so our students could see the work and effort of fellow ensembles on a national scale. Throughout the nation, several venues participate in a Performance in the Parks program. Students are able to see the inner workings of performance-based art, are taken backstage, and often are given the opportunity to work with production or stage managers. Sometimes these experiences are connected to a festival competition. Others, like the one our school elected to participate in last May, allow students to be guest performers in the park, in exchange for a day of attractions, rides, and fun.
I am happy to report that the experience was a glowing success. My students were able to watch and listen to other performing groups, and were raving about the high-quality sound and professionalism they saw from various performers. They also enjoyed a day of amusement with their peers, making memories that will last a lifetime.
That stated, I wish I had started with a checklist of various tasks that needed completion, but this being my first attempt at something so huge with students, there were inevitable details that were overlooked. Please allow my experience to assist you as you plan and organize meaningful educational experiences for your students outside the confines of your classroom.
Let them know of your plans for extracurricular activities as far in advance as possible. Your principal knows the demographics of your student population as well as policy for out-of-district travel. In our case, there was a packet that needed school board approval before we could announce the trip to our students.
In our case, we left our campus late Friday night and drove all night, to return the following evening. This cut costs considerably as we didn’t need to provide hotel accommodations for our students. Student cost covered the performance fee and entrance to the park, lunch, transportation via a charter bus company, as well as hotel rooms for our bus drivers.
These were developed in accordance to the school-wide behavior plan. The last thing you want to deal with as an educator with a mass of students far from home is troublesome or delinquent behavior. Develop a contract that articulates expected behavior from all students before and during a trip. Define potential ineligibility and consequences for delinquent behavior during the trip. Have students and parents sign and return contracts before any money is collected.
We broke the cost of the trip into two payments, but depending on your demographic, you may want to break payment down into monthly installments. The initial payment can be used for various deposits. Indicate in a payment contract when refunds can no longer be given.
Every child should be given the opportunity to participate, regardless of financial situations, and there are a plethora of fundraising ideas that may work in your community. Also, it may benefit students to find sponsors or business donations. These are tax deductible, which can be a win for both the company and for your classroom. Inform families about educational tax credit opportunities. In Arizona, the educational tax credit program allows individuals to donate to a student, classroom, or program, and reduces the yearly state tax contribution, dollar for dollar. Similar educational credits exist nationwide. This is a great way to achieve funding for your students that also benefits potential classroom patrons.
Unless you are traveling with a small group of students, you should employ the assistance of a few good chaperones. Follow school policies concerning volunteers and chaperones. Have a meeting with chaperones articulating responsibilities and duties. Exchange cell phone numbers (or employ the use of an online communication network like Celly) to allow contact with chaperones (and, at your discretion, students as well) at all times.
Give yourself enough time to collect all the required paperwork, including behavior contracts, permission-to-travel forms, and medical releases. Make copies for the bus, the first aid station of your destination (if applicable), and keep originals with you. In the case of an emergency, it is better to have this information readily accessible.
If your field trip experience allows for free time (as performing in an amusement park would allow), establish check-in times with students and chaperones. Ensure students know where and when to check in as a group.
While on the field trip, attempt to follow your established itinerary, but be flexible and willing to adapt when necessary. Know your students and gauge their needs, just as you would in the classroom.
Don’t forget to enjoy the fruits of your hard work and have fun!
Whether you decide to travel with students locally or plan an experience of a grander scale, remember that these are the experiences students will recall most vividly in their adult lives.
Wherever your travels take you, may you enjoy a relaxing and memorable holiday season!
Do you have thoughts, tips, or stories about traveling with students? We'd love to hear from you in the comments field below.