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Essentials for a Successful Field Trip

Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better

~Albert Einstein

Inside this issue:

Fun in the Field Getting students out of the classroom can be one of the most memorable and rewarding experiences of the school year. Trips can excite and engage students as they embark on their research projects or recap and reward a project milestone. Trips can also provide bonding opportunities between mentor and student, encourage camaraderie among your chapter’s students, and create life-long memories for all participants. Whether you choose expeditionary, place-based, or inquiry-based learning, here are some reasons why you should get your students outdoors today!

Fun in the Field


Trip Ideas


Making the Case for your Trip


Setting Goals and Planning Ahead


Potential Activities


Additional Resources 5

Benefits of Field Trips 

Provide a bonding experience with nature Remember—there are

Provide a bonding experience with mentor

resources in the Coordinator-Teacher

Encourage environmental stewardship

Manual’s Section 10: Field Trips, page 124.

Elicit enthusiasm for environmental inquiry

Spark student interests

Improve student learning

Essentials for a Successful Field Trip

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Trip Ideas

The EnvironMentors program encourages chapter coordinators, teachers, and mentors to help introduce students to the natural world and their local environment. EnvironMentors specifically encourages chapters to offer several experiential and hands-on learning experiences for students throughout the program period. These trips can be as simple as exploring your schoolyard or as complex as a series of longitudinal site visits to a local ecosystem. The structure of the EnvironMentors program season provides many different opportunities for field trips:


Excite students and inspire project topics, provide an opportunity for student and mentor bonding


Re-energize or maintain student interest in the program


Reward students who have successfully completed the program

When thinking up potential trips don’t go it alone: include your chapter coordinator/director, mentors, and students in brainstorming ideas. They may have suggestions or contacts to make your trip more successful, and it will build camaraderie among your chapter team and your students. Below are some ideas to help get you started.


Informal Learning Institutions




College visit

National or state park


Tree planting

Forest Service land


Garden construction and care

National Wildlife refuge

Science Center

Wastewater treatment plant



Local reservoir or water source

Local arboretum


Botanical garden


Local native habitat (wetland, plain, intertidal)

Essentials for a Successful Field Trip Making the Case for Your Trip Despite the many benefits and uses of field trips, every teacher has their own gauntlet to complete before taking a step out the school door with students. Some potential obstacles include your school’s administration, fellow teachers, parents, standardized testing, and transportation. Make sure you’ve thought through the concerns of each stakeholder group whose assistance or approval you need. Space is provided for you to add additional talking points, below.

Talking points when speaking to your administration: Increased student knowledge of science content and inquiry skills Increased student engagement in school and EnvironMentors Provides fodder for project topics Improved student learning Alignment with National Science Education Standards and/or State Standards _____________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________

Talking points when enlisting help from fellow teachers: Invite them to be a part of the trip Involve their subject area during trip if they cannot attend Make up for lost instructional time in their subject area if it cannot be incorporated _____________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________

Talking Points when speaking with parents and mentors: Safety of transportation and place you’re visiting Cost of trip (keep it inexpensive) Invite them to be a part of the trip _____________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________

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Essentials for a Successful Field Trip

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Setting Goals and Planning Ahead Your own planning should include determining your goals, deciding what resources you’ll need and what resources are available to you, and any logistics specific to your students, school, chaperones, and site. The diagram below presents many of the questions you have to consider.

Field Trip Planning: Guiding Questions* What Resources do I need?

Website Content Based? Off-Site Pre–Planning

Questions to consider?

What are my Overall Learning Goals?

On-Site Pre–Planning

Attitude Based? Skill Based?

Contact museum/college/park officials to request teacher resources, additional information, and help planning

Grade Level Number of students visiting Time of the year Day of the week Length of the visit Chaperones needed Lunch on site? Transportation mode Gift shop Additional Programming  Guided tour  Classes  Behind the scenes  Movies/planetarium  Cost          

* Adapted from New England Aquarium Teacher Resource Center “Field Trip Prep” and “Effective Field Trip Planning” in Science Scope April/May 2007

Goals Setting clear goals for your field trip is the most important thing you can do to prepare. If you’re visiting a local water body, do you want to impart knowledge about freshwater ecosystems, get students interested in stewardship and protecting their local environment, or do you want them to practice a skill like water sampling or water quality testing? Do you want to encourage student-mentor bonding, bonding between your chapter’s students, or increase student interest in college? Knowing this will help you connect the trip to your teaching goals, determine what activities you’d like students to do, and will provide a foundation to use the trip as a catalyst for student projects and future learning. Resources First – reach out to your chapter coordinator/director, mentors, and National EnvironMentors team. They are your support system, and want your trip to succeed! Other chapters may have already done a similar field trip and have tips or resources to share. Be sure to check out the field trip checklist in the Coordinator-Teacher Manual on pages 125-126, and see the sample permission slip forms. You should also contact informal learning institutions to request any resources or materials that are available to teachers planning a trip. You’d be amazing at the wealth of resources that many organizations have prepared for visitors, in the hopes of making the visit more enjoyable for all of their guests. These institutions often offer free- or reduced-price tickets for school groups at certain times of day or year.

Essentials for a Successful Field Trip

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Setting Goals and Planning Ahead, Cont’d Logistics Field trip day comes with its own concerns. You’ll want to have planned out the rest of your logistics before leaving school with students. Do this by visiting the field trip site before you visit with students. This way you can plan ahead for activities and logistics, such as safety concerns. Are you having lunch off site? Do students need to wear sun block? In addition to permission slips, provide parents with a trip checklist. This comes in handy for trips that will be mostly outdoors. If visiting an informal learning institution, consider the time of year, week and day of your trip. Call and ask if mornings or afternoons are quieter, or if early in the week is less crowded than a Friday.

Potential Activities Once you’ve determined your trip, gotten the approval of your administration, set your goals and inventoried your resources, you can plan your pre-, during, and post-visit student activities. Activities will vary by location of your trip, and site constraints (time, what students can carry, lighting). After your trip be sure to harness the excitement and questions of your students! In addition to post-activities, which can measure the success of your field trip goals, be sure to discuss the trip as a group. This may provide important insight for future trips you plan.


During visit


Introduce field trip location to students; allow students to ask questions

Open-ended or observation or journaling (emphasize scientific observations/writing)

Hand in assignments – written journal, observations, scavenger hunts completed during trip

Photo safari

Student report-out to class sharing share observations, writing, sketching, or photographs

Investigation stations (practice research skills using field equipment)

Analyze data collected during visit

Lesson on ecosystem, habitat, organisms of field trip Student research project, paper, or presentation on topic related to field trip Connect to other subjects like English, history, or math

Group debrief and discussion

Additional Resources Connolly, Rachel, Groome, Meghan, Sheppard, Keith, and Nick Stroud. “Tips from the Field: Advice from museum experts on making the most of field trips,” The Science Teacher. January 2006, pg 42-45. EnvironMentors. “Section 10: Field Trips,” Coordinator-Teacher Manual. Pg 124-128. Kisiel, James. “Making Field Trips Work,” The Science Teacher. January 2006, pg 46-48. Ross Russell, Helen. Ten Minute Field Trips. 2001. Scribner-MacLean, Michelle, and Lesley Kennedy. “Effective Field Trip Planning,” Science Scope. April/May 2007, pg 57-60. Teacher Resource Center. “Field Trip Planning,” New England Aquarium. 2007.


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