Field trips are exciting—uncharted territories for students to explore and learn. There’s even evidence that they can improve students’ performance on tests. But they can also come with challenges, from unexpected weather to overheated students. As a parent, you can help make sure field trips are a success for everyone involved. Here are seven tips from my days as a teacher.
1. Dress for success
Will your child be taking in the animals at the zoo on a blazing hot day or in an air-conditioned museum exploring dinosaur bones? When in doubt, have your child wear layers they can remove or add as needed, and always wear comfortable shoes. This is not the time to show off that brand new pair of kicks. If the sun is out, pack a hat or think about sunscreen.
2. Have a field trip prep talk
Field trips are exciting, but they can also be stressful for teachers and chaperones, who have to manage a group of amped-up students outside of the school walls and normal routines. Ask your child to help teachers out by paying extra attention when they give directions.
3. Have a safety plan
Schools and teachers are really good at keeping kids safe, but we all can benefit from some helpful reminders. Talk with younger children about safety, including what to do if they lose their group. If they don’t know your phone number, put it on a piece of paper in their pocket. Make sure you know where they are going and when, in case you need to find them in an emergency.
4. Get plenty of rest, before and after
The mere knowledge an exciting field trip is on the horizon can be an energy drain itself. Make sure your child gets a good night’s rest before the trip and also plan for a calmer evening afterward. This way they will be recharged for the rest of the week and not depleted by the one day field trip extravaganza.
5. Fuel up
Field trips burn calories. Period. The planning, mental stimulation, extra walking, and effort of staying with the group in a strange place can all make for a real workout. Try to be sure your child has a well-rounded breakfast before the trip (whether at home or at school), and pack a water bottle and healthy snacks.
6. Consider chaperoning
If you can, consider joining your child on a field trip! It can help you build relationships with your child, provide a glimpse into their life at school, and support the whole class. You don’t need to sign up for every trip, but consider doing what works for your schedule. If you have limited work flexibility, ask the teacher if you can support in another way, like sending in a snack for the trip.
7. Talk about the trip afterward
Some field trips are just for fun—like going to the water park at the end of the school year. Others are more educational. Either way, ask your child about it afterward. What was the most interesting thing they saw or learned? Who did they spend the most time with? What do they want to learn more about? This is where learning can be cemented or amplified.