Joining your child on a field trip is one of the best ways to support your school district. And with a few vital tips, assisting the faculty can be both helpful and enjoyable.
To learn how to curb the stress of chaperoning these class outings, I caught up with Cressalyn Davis, a K-12 teacher at Advanced Paths Training School in Alexandria, Virginia. According to Davis, joining kids on scheduled field trips can be just as rewarding for you as it is to the students you’re empowering—if you know what to do and what not to do.
Here are some guidelines for taking responsibility while adding fun to a field trip.
Get involved! Ask the teacher if you can volunteer as a chaperone, and prepare your child by explaining why you won’t be able to engage him or her alone as usual. “I know this is kind of hard,” says Davis, “but in a situation where there are more students than chaperones, you will be responsible for a number of other students whose parents are unable to come.” This acknowledgment will help everyone involved—teachers, students, and other chaperones alike.
In addition, be sure to know whether any children have allergies. The more adults who are informed, the safer each student is during snack- and mealtime. “This will allow the teacher to not have to worry about every student as they get lunch,” says Davis.
Ultimately, stick to this attitude, and don’t be afraid to take initiative as needed. “Ask the teacher if she needs help in the planning process,” says Davis. “[This could mean] handling the route you will take on the nature trail or the way you [tour] the museum.” It may be a relief to the teacher if he or she can’t do the planning personally. No matter who drafts the itinerary, however, see that you can bring sunscreen, a movie, or a field-trip themed sing-along for the bus ride (e.g., Finding Nemo can complement a trip to the aquarium).
On the Bus
While on the way, be ready with a few pieces of trivia relevant to your outing, so that when the kids start getting antsy, you’ll be prepared to control the excitement. Any question that starts with “Who here can tell me . . .” is sure to regain their focus. A visit to the venue’s website the night before may supply you with plenty of nuggets to tantalize little scholars. Just be sure to keep the trivia uncomplicated, allowing them to deduce the answer without needing deep knowledge on the subject.
Their energy level notwithstanding, do not dismiss the classic buddy system! “It can be difficult to keep up with everyone, but pairing up the students in your group is great,” Davis says. “Especially when it comes to students with special needs.” The bus ride is the perfect time to establish this.
On the Grounds
Don’t be surprised when kids ask you to carry their, well, everything. Bring an extra (empty) backpack for gift shop purchases or layers of clothing that come off during a hot outdoor activity. Of course, when it’s time to give items back, pretending the snacks have vanished earns you some well-deserved fun in the end: Enjoy their varied faces—shock, confusion, disappointment—before you return the treats they left over when they got off the bus.
Also, don’t be shocked if your child is mischievous. We all believe the best of our children, but a field trip is a stimulating environment where personality quirks can emerge. To keep stress low, talk with them in private about behavior, then get back to the fun.
Lastly, try not to be distracted on the field trip. Snap a picture or two, sure, but stay focused. Educational outings are always interesting, and although you may want to soak in every detail of a site you’ve never seen, the students’ learning experience is your priority. Let the children (not the exhibits) entertain you, and you’ll enjoy your time much more.
At the Exhibit
Choose your favorite signs and plaques, and read them aloud to the students. “It may seem that they are not listening,” says Davis, “but I promise you, they are.” Be on the lookout for touchable exhibits. Children learn through tactile stimuli, and the ability to touch a subject will bring the learning to life.
Just as important, be ready for downtime. Whether the bus is late or the film isn’t working, have a relevant activity ready while you wait. Kids may entertain themselves, but if you prefer to steer their participation back toward fun and learning, have a simple game prepared. Themed “I Spy” or a coloring page relevant to your field trip’s subject is perfect for downtime—just ask permission from the instructors first. They’ll likely thank you for the mental break!
Finally, tell us how it went! What would you add to the list?
This article was brought to you by Tom’s of Maine. The views and opinions expressed by the author do not reflect the position of Tom’s of Maine.