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Feature Friday: 1/08/16: Adventures in Kindergarten

Hi, I'm Mary from Adventures in Kindergarten.  Thank you, Kinder Tribe, for letting me take over for Feature Friday!  I am here today to talk about how to plan an amazing field trip.

I LOVE field trips.  My little ones get SO excited to go on the trip and always come back knowing so much.  I also kind of sort of think that field trips are hard.  Hello, Stressville!  I am always keeping my fingers crossed that nobody wanders away, climbs into the pig pen at the farm or has an allergic reaction to a furry friend at the petting zoo.

Here are my tips for making field trips as fun and easy as possible for everyone (even the teacher!).

This will vary a lot from school to school depending on your policies.

Funding and Discounts
Many museums or other cultural institutions give free or reduced cost field trips to schools.  Take the time to do some internet searches to find out if any of your local attractions have school discounts.  For example, the New England Aquarium gave my students and chaperones free admission this year in exchange for me participating in a teacher training.  It was fabulous!  Also, a local farm run by the Audobon Society agreed to give my students scholarships, which amounted to a huge discount on admission.  This was huge, and allowed our low income urban school to take a visit to the country.  I would also recommend school based funding resources such as the PTO, or the amazing website DonorsChoose.

Family Payment
After you have priced out your admission cost and busses, determine how much you will need each child to contribute.  Let parents know about cost far in advance.  Even though $5 or $10 does not seem like a lot, some families require advanced planning to set it aside.  My team tried something brand new this year.  Instead of asking for $7 for this field trip or $9 for that one, we asked our families for $25 for the entire year.  I am THRILLED with how it has worked out so far!  You can read more about this and download a freebie of the letter we sent home here.

This is the part that I DREAD!  But I have learned the hard way that filing all of my paperwork early is so much less stressful.  This includes sending home permission slips.  I send them home about two weeks before our trips, which has saved me time that I used to spend calling or emailing parents to remind them about the trip, or scrambling last minute for permission.

Once all of your chaperones have committed, you can strategically plan which children you place with each chaperone.  Of course, any of my trickiest little friends stay with me.

This idea from Sailing into Second is pure genius.  She threw all of the essentials in a ziploc bag and voila!  A complete chaperone kit for everyone.  It even has the schedule for the day and a list of students that each person is in charge of.  I tried this on our farm trip last Spring and just loved it.

This might seem self explanatory, but it is SO important for the safety of the kids and your own peace of mind.

First Aid Kit and Meds
I always stuff a first aid kit and all of my kids EpiPens and inhalers in my trusty backpack.   Of course, always check with your school nurse about which medicine to take.  I also always grab hand sanitizer, kleenex and baby wipes because those always come in handy.

Make a Plan
Create a plan with the other teachers who are going on the trip with you, and be sure to share it with your chaperones.  If anyone was to get seriously injured on a trip, our plan is always to call 911 first, then inform our team.  Personally, I always give the chaperones my cell phone number in case they are separated from the group when an emergency happens.

Safety Necklace
I have used these little puppies since my second year teaching and they have saved me so much worry!  The front of the necklace is a cute sun, and the back has a label on it with the following information: My name and phone number, and our school name, address and phone number.  I train my students that if they get lost or separated, they are to show their necklace to an adult who works at the field trip location.  Thankfully, I have never needed to use it but it gives me so much peace of mind! 

To make the necklace, simply label the back of your sun, laminate it, punch two holes and string through with yarn to create a necklace.  I like to use soft, thick yarn that is plenty long to avoid any "Oops, I strangled myself" incidents.  I also suggest making a few extra because they have a tendency to get lost or damaged on trips.

This is my most favorite part about preparing for a field trip.  I love to teach my kids as much as possible about where we are going and what we will see before we get there.  It is incredible how much more they gain from a field trip when they are already knowledgable about a topic.

Here are a few fun ways that we learned about the ocean before visiting our local aquarium:
I made a YouTube playlist of age appropriate videos about a variety of ocean animals.  We watched a few together on the projector, and then our research groups watched more during center time.  Each group presented facts to the group about the animal they researched. 

Vocabulary is crucial!  I love to use mini word walls in my writing center to help my little ones write independently.  Before our visit, we made predictions about what we would see at the aquarium.  First we did this as a whole class during shared writing, then children completed a writing prompt independently.

After our visit, children wrote about what they actually saw at the aquarium.  This was a fun and engaging way to check our predictions.  It sparked tons of conversation... I just LOVE hearing my little ones use their new vocabulary correctly!  You can find the word walls and writing prompts in my Ocean Words unit.

Take a moment to take it all in and enjoy yourself.

Seriously!  You have worked hard and you are totally allowed to have fun with your kids!  I always take about a gazillion pictures to help us reflect when we get back to school.  This is where my trusty portable phone charger comes in handy.

Happy field tripping!

Adventures In Kindergarten

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