- Parents and children can feel anxious about outdoor field tips, particularly those that take place in settings that are a less confined than their backyard, Pete Barnes a 5th-grade science teacher, writes in Edutopia. That’s why he puts careful planning into putting everyone at ease.
- Barnes starts by talking about the experiences his students will have a week before they even head out. Where he teaches in Ohio, ticks are a worry, and he tells students they will need to wear long pants and old shoes or boots — and he has a few pair they can borrow in case they need them.
- He breaks students into small groups, asks adults to join on the trip as well and allows more adventurous students to head off the beaten path a bit, while others stay closer. Not every field trip is a “major expedition,” he wrote, noting that even just seeing a frog in nature or a beetle can also be a wonderful experience for a child.
A bit of fresh air can shake the dust off any rote lesson — it's part of the reason students are given recess time, especially in the early grades. Taking students outside, whether on field trips or into outdoor classrooms, does more however than add a change of scenery. These changes of venue can open schools up to new wrinkles, such as how to provide access to students with accessibility concerns, and those who may have allergies to certain outdoor triggers.
Field trips, traditionally, require parent approval. Permission slips are often sent home at the beginning of every school year, sometimes written in such a way as to have parents sign their okay to any excursion a teacher or school may be planning. Others still request permission for each individual trip.
For students with food allergies, Food Allergy Research and Education, suggests that staff and chaperones create a care plan to make sure they’re aware of triggers, and have quick access to medication. New York State also suggests that parents and guardians be invited to attend, and even that educators choose field trips “…with a student with life‐threatening allergies in mind,” according to the report, “Making the difference.”
Parents of students who have special needs, whether that’s physical, mental or emotional, should also be included in any planning of field trips, along with specialists who are “familiar with the students’ special needs” and “when appropriate, with the student,” according the National Science Teacher Association's Safety Advisory Board.
Outdoor adventures can be a valuable part of the curriculum, especially in the sciences — which is why it's important for teachers, curriculum designers and administrators to take appropriate steps to make sure these experiences are safe as well as educational, and ideally fun.