So, a field trip is coming up and you want everything to go without a hitch. Chances are, it won’t be perfect. There will be problems, but how do you manage the problems to minimize damage?
Organization is key to preparedness. Here are some things worth keeping in mind.
Before the Trip:
- Emergency Information: Compile all emergency information into one convenient notebook or travel agenda. This can be one you use throughout the year for all field trips. Make sure to take this with you on your trip.
- Allergies: If you are going somewhere where food is being served, or just outside where the elements might cause triggers for students with allergies, it is important that organizers of the event know which children in your group have allergies, and to what. All the staff in your party should also be aware of the students with allergies. Compile a list with detailed information and give each accompanying staff member a copy.
- Lunches & Snacks: Make sure students and their parents know this is a trip. Encourage them to pack foods that are easier to carry: light sandwiches and light snacks with easily disposable wrappers are great options. Students should also be encouraged to carry bottled water, especially if trips take place during the hot summer months.
- Media Release Forms and Waivers: Whatever liability documentation needs to be filled out, make sure it is done prior to the trip.Consider giving out information letters to parents with these forms at least a week in advance of the trip. Make the due date for all forms a couple of days before the trip, to allow for those students who might overshoot the due date.
- Information for Support Staff: Are all your support staff informed of where you are going? Make sure that all pertinent information is available to each member. Consider compiling a package for each staff member with a map of the place, address and phone number of those in charge, student allergy information or other health concerns, schedule for the day, and any other information that would ensure a smooth and safe field trip. Remember, communicating with those who are helping you on the trip is key.
- First Aid Kit: This should be prepared ahead of time and one person should be put in charge of it. Perhaps the person who has more experience handling emergency situations should be made responsible. Your usual suspects should feature here: Bandaids, gauze, alcohol wipes, Epipens for students who are too young to carry their own.
- Identifying Attire: Consider having your students wear T-shirts that identify them all as part of a group. Perhaps your school has a uniform. If this is the case, make sure to remind students to dress to the proper uniform code prior to the day of the trip. If there is no uniform, consider having them wear school mascot T-shirts if these are available, or perhaps contact wristbands or chains.
- The Safety Talk: Make sure you talk to your students about safety on a trip. Ask them questions about what it means to be safe. Alert them to different situations they might face on this trip, and then how they can protect themselves or a buddy from harm. A Buddy System is a good idea. Establish this ahead of time, with room for accommodations on the day of the trip, should attendance change.
On the Day of the Trip:
- Supervision Groups: Depending on the students who are attending, establish a staff supervisor for each small group of students. If you have parent volunteers, they should receive the same information as all staff. Typically between 5-8 students per adult is a good number.
- A Quick Check: Do a quick check before you leave. Do you have the First Aid Kit? Do you have the Emergency Information Notebook? Are all your students accounted for? Do each of them have their backpacks and lunches?
- Buddy System: In addition to having supervisory groups and counting them all the time, and observing them all the time, making more responsible or older students, in charge of younger ones just means one more pair of eyes is looking out for each student. And that is always a good thing.
- Cell Phones: Your cell phone should be fully charged for the day, and on Ringer Mode. In case of an emergency, you want to be able to pick up that call right away.
- Count-count-count: Establish the total number of students attending the trip. Count before you board the bus, count while on the bus, count when you get off the bus. Count your students every chance you get. It only takes a second to lose one of your students, so staying on the ball about this one can be crucial.
- Observe-observe-observe: Just like counting all the time, watching your students at every turn of the trip is important. You can heave a sigh of relief when they are all safely back at school and in their parents’/guardians’ possession. Until then, they are your responsibility.
- Washroom Supervision: Always have an adult accompany groups of students to the washroom. The adult can remain outside to monitor students.
Now, while there are many more things you could do to ensure a smooth field trip, these ones are a really good place to start. Remember to stay calm in the event of an emergency. Cooler heads always prevail.
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