Field trips make excellent learning opportunities; they get students out of the classroom and into the ‘real world’. I’ve organized about 60 field trips for special needs students, adults, homeschoolers and general education students. Here’s what works and what doesn’t.
-Field Trip Evaluation Form: As field trip coordinator, I compiled a Field Trip Evaluation Form (click here to download and print) for teachers, parent volunteers, chaperons and students to fill out after the field trip. I organized the responses in a 3-ring binder for other teachers and parents to browse when planning their field trip events. If your students responded well to a particular field trip, don’t hesitate to make plans for an annual event. Even if you have students more than one term in a row, if the field trip is a success, they will anticipate going again.
-Choose a field trip destination of interest to students. Many a field trip has failed because it was dull. What makes a field trip dull? When in doubt, choose field trips of high interest over technical merit. By this I mean that your biology students will probably enjoy a field trip to your local Humane Society, farm, nature center, drug company, zoo or hospital over a trip to a high tech research facility. The research facility may be closer technically to what you are studying, but there’s a good chance that the field trip will be mind-bendingly boring. You will have much better student participation and fewer behavior problems with a field trip of general interest.
-Monitor student response to tour guide. A great tour guide can make a less than thrilling venue interesting and a lackluster tour guide can make even the most exciting field trip dull. Does the tour guide engage students with questions, demonstrations? Does he respond to student questions? Does he seem rushed or uptight? Note how students responded to tour guide. Did they seem interested and engaged or bored and uninterested? Are students asking questions?
-Provide feedback for your tour guide. If your class enjoyed a great experience with a particular tour guide, request that guide next time. Make it a point to thank tour guides and facilities for allowing you to visit. Detail what you enjoyed about the trip.
-Think outside the box with field trip ideas. Repeat what works, but don’t be afraid to try new field trip venues. Is there a new resource in your community? Support local venues and give it a try. If it’s a new venue, give them a year or two to get on their feet. When I first took a group of children to our local childrens’ museum, they didn’t even have a home. They were a traveling event in another museum. I continued to follow the venue with students each year as it traveled. The Grand Rapids Childrens’ Museum is now one of the largest in Michigan. It’s like the Girl Scout song goes, ‘make new friends but keep the old; one is silver but the other is gold’.
For more lesson plans, visit my linked blogs.