Planning a class trip requires organization and strategy so children will learn and enjoy it
For Administrators

5 Essentials to Coordinating Great Class Trips

By Brian Gatens December 9, 2013

I’m a huge fan of class trips. It’s a big and interesting world, and I’ve always reminded staff members that schools are in the enviable position of being able to expose children to interesting and educational places.

Planning a class trip requires organization and strategy so children will learn and enjoy itThat being understood, the planning of a class trip requires extra attention to detail to ensure that all goes well. Class trips are when student safety, money and curriculum all intersect, and it’s vital that you get it right. Here are my five big tips when it’s time to put a trip together:

Get administrative clearance

First and foremost, make certain your school administration has formally approved the trip. This approval is most likely perfunctory if the trip happens every year, but if you’re going to a new destination, be certain to clear all the administrative hurdles.

Your school should also have all the necessary trip approval forms. Also make it a point to double-check the overall cost of the trip and to meet with your business office to confirm that your numbers are correct. It’s not uncommon to miss a key cost (nurse coverage, bus fees) when putting the details together.

Make a direct connection to your curriculum

I always require my staff to explain the direct connection of the trip to their class activities and curriculum. You’ll undermine the perception of school as a place of academic rigor if the trip appears frivolous or without academic merit.

Staff members also should complete both pre and post academic activities that have a direct connection to the trip. As an aside, you should meet with the children prior to the trip to review their behavior expectations for the trip. Each child should be reminded that they are a representative for their school.

Look at relevant policy

All school districts have policies dictating how school trips should be run. Policies should include the minimum number of chaperones as well as the requirements for bus safety, such as whether seat belts required on coach buses. Take time to review these policies and make certain that you’re adhering to them.

I find this is an area where communication breaks down. Remember that district policies drive all district actions, and it’s not uncommon for there to be very prescriptive expectations for how class trips are planned and conducted.

Share the work

Colleagues often decide on trips together, especially if they teach at the same grade level. As a result, I encourage you to share the preparation activities. Trip planning — coordinating with the location, arranging for transportation, completing the necessary paperwork — requires a lot of interconnected pieces to work well together. These expectations are best met when they are shared.

Think outside the box

My biggest point of contention with school trips is that they are — for lack of a better word — boring. There will always be great museums and art galleries to visit, but I think that school trips should also be used to visit novel sites. Examples could include an ancient graveyard, the headquarters of a major corporation, a television station or even a massive factory.

Our communities have great destinations. Using a school trip to expose your students to them is an excellent use of their school time.

An educator for two decades, Brian P. Gatens is superintendent of Emerson Public Schools in Emerson, New Jersey. Gatens has worked at the K-12 level in public and private school settings in urban and suburban districts. He has been a classroom teacher, vice principal, principal and superintendent.

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