With careful planning, children can benefit from field trips because they broaden their world and provide hands-on experiences valuable for learning. Health, safety, and educational issues are important considerations for a successful field trip. Here is the story of a preschool field trip to illustrate some important considerations for childcare providers. Grab your jacket and come along.
Amma wants to take her preschool class on a field trip to Bushels Apple Orchard. She reviews her program’s policy and obtains approval. She visits the orchard ahead of time to talk with Melanie, the orchard guide, about possible safety problems and to select specific activities, such as picking apples, measuring trees, and sorting apples.
Amma knows that none of the children in her care have known allergies to pollens or insect bites or stings, and also, no child has food allergies, so they decide what food to serve for a snack. They also discuss logistics such as parking and payment, and confirm that there are adequate toilet and hand washing facilities. Amma takes pictures of the orchard.
After making sure a bus and driver are available on the desired date, Amma finalizes arrangements. She prepares a parent permission form with information including the date, time, location, transportation, food accommodations, appropriate dress, a request for parent volunteers, and the return date for the forms.
Amma and her co-caregiver, Junji, begin preparing children for the experience by posting pictures of the orchard and the activities. They discuss the activities and safety rules so the children will know what to expect and will be less likely to forget what they should do during the excitement of the trip.
What to Take
Once the permission forms are returned and parent volunteers are identified, Amma and Junji make a list of items to take. They currently have no children on medication, so they will not need to take medications with them. Amma is designated to handle emergencies. They will need the following items which Amma will carry in a backpack:
- The orchard address and directions.
- Copies of the permission forms and emergency contact information.
- Copies of policies pertaining to transportation, field trips, and notifying parents.
- Emergency cash, a cellular telephone, and a first aid kit.
- Items for children’s activities, including a camera, tape measures, and paper bags labeled with children’s names.
Field Trip Day
It is a sunny October day. Amma and Junji are ready to go and are as energized as the children. The three parent volunteers available to help supervise children count toward the required caregiver-child ratio. Amma retrieves the backpack, and signs the children out. She checks in with the bus driver, Doug, who has examined the map, completed a bus safety check, checked each child safety seat, and filled the gas tank. Meanwhile, back in the childcare center, Junji and the parent volunteers assist the 18 excited children in putting on their jackets and going to the bus loading area.
Junji and the children greet the bus driver. As they board the bus, Amma counts the children and Junji begins singing the apple song. Adults help each child into booster seats or car seats, depending on their weight and height, and ensure that they are securely buckled. Amma does a final head count. The adults, sitting among the children on the bus, buckle their own seat belts. As travel begins, the adults ask the children questions and encourage conversation about the trip, reminding them about the fun they will have and the safety rules they should follow.
Once they arrive, Junji and the other parent volunteers help children get unbuckled and exit the bus, while Amma stands outside the bus and counts the children as they get off and reassemble near her. After walking through the bus to be sure all children are off, Junji and Doug join the group.
Although Amma and Junji are ultimately responsible for child supervision, the parent volunteers have each been assigned children they will be responsible for watching and supporting during the field trip. Doug will take pictures and help out as needed. The group moves in little clusters toward the Apple House where their guide is waiting to take them for an orchard tour. Amma introduces Melanie to the class. Melanie greets the children and tells them about the walk they are about to take. Melanie has some small wagons that all children will have a chance to pull.
They follow Melanie to begin the activities, one of which is learning how to pick apples from a tree. With the assistance of adults, each child climbs a sturdy ladder and picks three apples. Two apples will go into their paper bag and one will go into the class wagon for group cooking. While children wait their turn, they do stretching and make believe activities about picking apples.
Follow Up Activities
After the other activities, the group returns to the Apple House, where a special room has been set up for snack time. Children and adults wash their hands and wash one of their apples for a snack. The snack also includes apple cider and other orchard treats selected in advance. As they eat, children talk about the experience at the orchard. Adults assist the children in putting trash in the big can, and Junji talks about the importance of cleaning up and taking care of the earth so that apple trees can grow.
Everyone thanks Melanie and heads toward the bus. The adults and children follow the same procedures as before–staying together, counting heads, buckling up, and counting heads again. The tired, but happy group of children rides and talks about the trip and plan for the applesauce they will make and the pictures they will show their family. Amma and Junji know the children have real world experiences with apples that will facilitate discussion of the field trip back in the childcare center. They have planned ways to extend the study of apples. It will be a long time before the children are ready to move to a new subject.
The field trip was a success thanks to Amma and Junji’s pre trip planning, the close supervision of the children, the quality of the orchard tour led by Melanie, and the fun follow-up activities. Close communication among all the adults involved in the field trip helped things to run smoothly.