Otis Kriegel, teacher and author of Starting School Right: How do I plan for a successful first week in my classroom? (ASCD), describes how he prepares for a successful field trip in this month’s article from Education Week.
Response From Otis Kriegel
How many checklists can I make? It seems that there are a million details to cover
before leaving the classroom on a field trip. From checking with the venue to be sure
they know we are coming to checking the weather or knowing where bathrooms are en
route in case an emergency pit stop is needed (yes, it happens). The list is long.
Whether the field trip is meant to introduce something new, inspire further interest in the
current unit of study or review what has just been completed, I like to do a few things
before we leave for the excursion to maximize the potential of the field trip.
Review what they will see
Discuss in class why you are going on the field trip. If you are taking your class to the
Natural History Museum to see the Earthquake and Plate Tectonics exhibition, tell them
that. They might think they are going there to look at the dinosaur skeletons. Then
explain why, i.e., “We are going to visit the Earthquake and Plate Tectonics exhibition
to complete our science unit about earthquakes and our study of the Earth.” Or better
yet, ask them why they think they are going on the field trip.
Create a list of questions, focused upon what they don’t know and would like to learn on
the trip, as a group before you leave. Students can write questions they find important in
their notebook or, if you are interviewing someone, such as a judge, politician, or
firefighter, write all of the questions on a piece of chart paper and bring it along. Kids
can look at it during the interview and use each other’s questions.
When I took my 5th grade class to interview a former U.S. Senator as a part of our study
of U.S. Government, my students were understandably intimidated. We watched videos
about the senator, learned that he had run for president, fought in wars and had been a
very effective politician for a number of years. All of these accomplishments made him a
threatening figure to my 10 and 11 year-olds. By bringing the chart paper filled with their
questions, they felt more comfortable. The senator even took a peek at the questions
beforehand and said, “Wow. Impressive. I’m happy I prepared!”
Give them something to do
Whether going to a museum or the zoo, give your students something to do other than
look. A worksheet or treasure hunt to inspire them to think and explore is always worth
your time. Sometimes the venue will provide reflective activities after a tour and other
times you must create them on your own. Extra projects enhance the transfer of
information and help students to reflect upon what was learned when you get back to
Which leads to my last tip. Take time in class for students to express what they learned,
what inspired them, and what they did or did not like. You are taking a field trip to
enhance what you are doing in class. Take the time to transfer that information from the
outside of school experience back to the classroom. And don’t forget to ask what they
learned/saw/experienced that was a complete surprise and perhaps had nothing to do
with the course of study.
From Education Week, “Great Field Trips Expand the Mind,” by Larry Ferlazzo on December 14, 2016.