Field trips can inspire your child to study a topic, give him further insights into his current studies, or provide closure to a completed unit. Is there somewhere you’d like to take your children to reinforce a topic this year? Or just want to visit because it would enrich their lives? If you let your support group (or even just a few other families) know that you are planning to go and they are welcome to tag along (think: group rate)—voila! You’re planning a field trip! (Of course, you don’t have to invite anyone else, but it’s usually more fun — and usually cheaper — that way, and I’ll walk you through it…..)
How to plan a field trip
After you choose a location, call or visit their location or their website for pricing, group rates, size limit, recommended ages, stroller access, food facilities, and information on activities for the students. Will there be bathrooms available? Is there a fee for parking? Do they provide guides? How about handouts for advance preparation? What are the deadlines for registration and payment, and is there a refund policy? Are there any specific health regulations at the current time?
If your group has a calendar, get the event onto your group’s page. If there’s an attendance minimum or maximum, or monies to be collected, get a count of interested families and ages; if not, you can just set and announce the date for folks to show up. Keep track of any monies paid, and provide updates about the event and facility to your families. Delegate leadership, if desired, or recruit helpers—just because you plan this, you don’t necessarily have to be in charge on-site.
The day before the event, you’ll want to confirm with the manager that they are expecting you, and send a reminder through your email loop, if possible. Be sure any carpool plans have been distributed or directions given. When you get there, name tags or color-coded t-shirts are helpful.
If you are leading the field trip on-site, you’ll want to arrive a bit early and introduce yourself to your host. This is a good opportunity to get the contact information for thank-you notes—and to scope out where the bathrooms are! Take care of any payment arrangements, then review the rules with the group and introduce the guide to your group
During a tour, it helps for you to stay at the front to encourage the group and guide questions as needed. You’ll want a helper at the back to round up stragglers (for a larger group, you’ll want more helpers along the way). At the end of the visit, be sure to thank the guide or manager, and leave the area at least as tidy as when your group arrived.
Field Trip Tips for Families (Try saying that three times, fast!)
As homeschoolers, we of course want our children’s conduct and appearance to reflect well upon our families, our homeschool group, and homeschooling in general—so the host will invite homeschoolers back!
- Ask the field trip planner about any special dress requirements so your children can be dressed appropriately for the activities. It helps to know if there are any other restrictions or rules—for example, no strollers or no photography.
- If you sign up for a trip, your space may be reserved, so let the planner know (as far in advance as possible) if you absolutely cannot attend after all so she can release your spot to someone on the waiting list. Unless there are extenuating circumstances, funds paid by no-shows may be non-refundable.
- Avoid last-minute confusion by arriving at least 10-15 minutes early. Remind your children to use the buddy system so nobody ventures out alone; be sure they know to stay within your sight. Let them know where they may go and what they may touch. Good vocabulary words: courteous and attentive! This is a good time to practice raising hands, speaking in turn, and being quiet when the guide or an adult leader is talking. (And parents, it can be tempting for us to chat quietly during these social opportunities, but our whispers can be distracting to the participants, too!)
- What should you bring along? Will you need sunblock or bottled water? A change of clothes or shoes? What about snacks? Many trips end in a picnic lunch, so be sure to know what foods are appropriate for your venue, as well as where you may eat. You may want to pack a hairbrush and hair accessories for little ones who tend to get slightly disheveled en route or manage to get out the door before a final inspection!
- If the field trip is an unguided tour, it’s easy for children to be overwhelmed. A scavenger hunt, simple puzzle or worksheet, or even one question to answer afterward can give them focus. For example, a scavenger hunt for a visit to the state fair might include such items as:
- Name two animals in the aquaculture exhibit.
- What are two ingredients in soy donuts?
- How big is the biggest pumpkin?
- Name one baby animal born during the fair? What kind? Birth weight/time?
- What is your favorite animal in Young MacDonald’s Farm?
- Find our town on a state map: Section ________
- What does NASA stand for?
- Get a state trooper’s autograph.
- Be sure the children thank the guide or host of the event. A follow-up thank-you note from the students is polite; a note to the event planner for her efforts is thoughtful, too.
Whether you are planning a field trip or simply attending, I hope these guidelines will help you participate with confidence!
More about field trips:
Field trip guidelines as a printable pdf (for sharing with the other families participating)
Aaand…We’re Off! (tips for family travel, even for a day trip)
“Even a child is known by his actions, by whether his conduct is pure and right.”
Proverbs 20:11 (NIV)
(Adapted from a newsletter by this author, previously published at HSLDA.org)