When taking students out of the classroom, it’s easy to worry about the logistics or how your students might feel or behave outside the comfort of your classroom, but taking students on field trips doesn’t have to be intimidating! Having facilitated field trips with hundreds of teachers, I’ve learned loads of quick tricks to help make field trips successful. Here are three of my absolute favorites.
Having access to clipboards for each of your students transforms museums and outdoor spaces into a classroom, complete with flexible-seating options! If you don’t already have access to a class set of clipboards, ask around your school; chances are, someone will have them laying around!
Clipboards allow you to make experiences more engaging and allow your students to reflect on and react to the spaces they are visiting. We suggest that you create a simple handout before they go, asking students about what they notice (i.e. “how many species of fish can you find?”) or how they connect the information back to their classroom learning (i.e. “where do you see the ‘stone of hope’ portrayed in the MLK memorial?”).
If you’re looking to buy a new set of clipboards, we recommend looking into the half-sheet size! While it will require you to create half-sheet-sized handouts, the smaller size is way lighter and more manageable for younger students.
A note of caution: clipboards can be noisy and uncomfortable! We find that students do best with a little bit of scaffolding. This might sound silly, but model correct clipboard usage (i.e. writing in your lap or in the crook of your arm, or how to walk with clipboards without bumping exhibits) and careful usage of the clip (so as not to create loud “clip” echoes throughout cavernous museums). For more information on clipboard usage on field trips, check out this post.
This is an age-old trick for field trips with small children, but it’s a good one! I learned this tip while teaching groups at the United States Botanic Garden. Teachers with large groups of younger students had printed out address labels for each of their students. The labels had the school’s name and phone number should students get separated from the group.
For privacy concerns, leave students full names off the labels and instead consider including student ID numbers on the labels to help the school identify the missing child. The chance of a student going missing is highly unlikely, but having a back-up measure will help save your sanity! Print plenty of copies so that you can use them on subsequent field trips!
Some teachers never skip a learning opportunity. One of our favorite teaching partners, and LILI board member Hope Harrod taught us this simple trick (and we’ve since seen some other teachers use it too!): bring a book!