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Planning Safe Field Trips for Schools

A day away from the classroom doesn't have to be wild.

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Field trips can be wonderful experiences for both students and teachers. They provide an opportunity for students to get out of the classroom and use all of their senses to explore a lesson or concept. Successful field trips take careful planning and attention to details.

Screening Chaperones

One teacher cannot supervise an entire class of boisterous children while away from school. Elementary school students are curious, and one or more may wander away or hang back to investigate something that interests them. Chaperones are a necessity for any field trip.

Choose chaperones carefully before allowing them to accompany classes on field trips.

Having all chaperones fill out a school volunteer form allows school administrators to screen volunteers and make an informed decision about who will be allowed to accompany the children.

Having Enough Chaperones

The National Health and Safety Performance Standards for child care offer this general rule when deciding on the number of chaperones:

  • Age 5: one adult to eight students
  • Ages 6-8: one adult to 10 students
  • Ages 9 and up: one adult to 12 students
  • If you have a special needs student, he or she may need an individual chaperone.

Use your judgment. You many need more or fewer chaperones, depending on the activity level and general obedience of the students.

Preparing for Emergencies

Teachers and chaperones need to be prepared for emergencies. If you have never visited the field trip destination yourself, try to visit it before your classroom field trip. This can help you understand the layout of the area, know what to expect, and develop emergency procedures. If this isn’t possible, gather information online or ask someone who has been there before. Make sure you understand any dress and security guidelines for the destination.

Give chaperones general guidelines and behavior expectations ahead of time. Also, familiarize them with field trip-specific emergency procedures, how to get assistance, and whom to contact in the event of an issue.

Some common situations to prepare for include: a missing child, medical emergency, discipline problem, and dangerous activities.

Using Safe Transportation

Because field trips involve a trip to a destination, transportation safety is always an issue. School buses typically offer the best combination of safety and value, but you can also use charter buses, small buses, or private vehicles.

Using Child Restraint Systems

If riding in a passenger vehicle, children younger than 13 should be in the back seats at all times, according to the National Health and Safety Performance Standards for child care.

Children under 80 pounds and under four-feet-nine-inches tall must travel in a car seat or booster seat that is appropriate for their height and weight, according to state and federal regulations. All children should be required to use seat belts the entire time vehicles are in motion.

Sending Letters and Forms

To ensure the safety of students and reduce liability for your school, keep parents and guardians involved in field trips by giving them information about the trip. Sending a letter well in advance of the trip gives parents and guardians information about the trip and allows them to prepare their child for it. Having parents fill out a consent form gives them the opportunity to provide their parental consent, their child’s emergency contact information, and information about any allergies or medical conditions.

Some information that every teacher should provide to students’ parents and guardians before leaving on a field trip are:

  • A letter from the school about the field trip
  • Field trip details and itinerary
  • Means of transportation
  • What student should bring and not bring on the trip, including types of clothing needed
  • Activity Participation Agreement

Teachers should carry a photocopy of each student’s Activity Participation Agreement on the field trip, since it contains important emergency contact information and gives trip leaders permission to obtain medical treatment for a student in an emergency.

Carefully planning and preparing for field trips can make a day out of the classroom enjoyable for school administrators, teachers, and students alike. Field trips provide great learning opportunities, and putting safety first when planning these trips helps them succeed.