The Fabulous Field Trip Guide: Planning

6 min read

“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” – Henry Miller

In 1996, I joined an internship to design educational activities and exhibits to open the Witte Museum’s Science Treehouse. The internship taught me valuable lessons in organizing engaging field trips, summer camps, and camp-ins with student learning and safety at the forefront. Each field trip included hands-on learning with an expert. The children worked with a famous meteorologist, engineers, storytellers, archaeologists,  historians, and other subject matter experts to engage in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) and history activities in the field. Many of our learners had experience working with professionals in diverse fields for the first time. These experiences left a lasting impression of what the learners were capable of and gave our learners a taste of working in different fields. I have taken this training to effectively plan various field trips and summer camps for English language learners and students of various ages. In the next series of posts, I will be sharing my tips for planning engaging field trips where students leave seeing themselves working in STEAM fields. Below is a slide presentation (free to download) followed by planning tips, free handouts, and bookmarks. In the following posts, I will share activity suggestions, virtual field trip suggestions, how to integrate virtual reality and augmented reality to spice up field trips, and tips for integrating mobile learning, QR codes, and technology.

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  • Possible field trip destinations- city services (the water system, landfills, recycling plants, the transit/traffic system, fire stations, etc.), charities, media stations, landmarks, excavation sites, animal refuges or farms, museums, national and state parks, factories,  local businesses, or behind the scenes of theatres, the orchestra, or amusement parks.
  • To ensure the field trip supports learning, try this Google template for aligning field trips to learning objectives and activities.
  • Visit the location beforehand to discover the best learning resources, exhibits, hands-on activities, or learning areas.
  • Get maps and a calendar of events and special guests to plan your field trip on the best day.
    • At my hands-on museum, we would host free workshops, have short skits, or live demonstrations on different days and times.
  • If there are volunteer docents or tour guides, then ask them questions to see what interesting stories they share and see how they brighten your experience.
    • Often, docents or guides will be able to shed light on a painting, famous visitors to the museum, or tidbits of information you might not necessarily get from books.
    • If you like a docent’s personality, find out the docent’s schedule and plan how he/she can support your students’ learning.
  • Get the location’s experts to do field research or activities with learners. A few examples of how I have gotten local experts to work with my students include:
    • conducting a weather forecast in front of a green screen with a local meteorologist.
    • building adobe bricks with an adobe structure expert.
    • weaving sandals out of the lechuguilla plant with a Native American expert.
    • exploring the microbes in the river with a water engineer.
    • picking up and identifying Texas fossils with a local paleontologist.
    • making movable LEGO structures with a LEGO builder.
    • exercising with a trainer at a children’s learning gym.
  • Check the location’s website for resources, handouts, or an app.
    • For example the Smithsonian provides many online and physical resources on the website.
  • Get learners excited with engaging pretasks. Many site’s websites will provide printables or classroom/online games for students to play.
    • Check out the Smithsonian’s site for children filled with games.
    • These games or activities can help students gain a foundation of what they will be learning during the field trip.
    • These activities also help spark interest and provide students with a focus of what they should be learning.
  • Have a field trip backpack ready with your safety kit, student roster, and a folder with necessary forms.
  • Always get parent permission and medical information. These forms should be included in the field trip folder you always carry with your student roster and guardian contact information.
  • Make sure students are dressed and prepared for the occasion.
    • For example, if students are outside on a sunny day, they need sunblock and light colored clothes to keep them cool.
    • You should let students know ahead of time if they have to wear a particular shirt or color.
    • Provide parents with a list of necessary items. Here is a great article for parents on preparing for their children for field trips.
  • Make sure you are well prepared for the field trip in case students forget important items, such as water, snacks, sunblock, or bug spray.
    • Always carry a first aid kit and cpr response kit.
    • Always have someone attend with first aid certification and experience.
  • Have plenty of volunteers in the form of other teachers or the students’ guardians who you have prepped with maps, activities, key learning points, objectives, and solutions to common questions.


Challenge: Use one of these resources to plan an engaging field trip where students get exposure to different professions and cultures.

If you enjoyed these ideas, you may want to get your copy of The 30 Goals for Teachers or my $5.99 ebook, Learning to Go, which has digital/mobile activities for any device and editable/printable handouts and rubrics.


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Field Trips, by shellyterrell

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