When a child comes home with a handout announcing a school trip, most parents begin asking when, why, and how much? These questions are rooted in the most innate of parent concerns including safety, spending, and security.
Here are five questions parents should ask about school trips and why it is important to know the answers.
1. How will you get there?
The type of transportation will vary depending on the trip. For example, a one-day visit to a museum will likely mean a yellow bus ride versus a week-long historic tour of the East Coast via airplane or coach bus. That East Coast tour also might include a train, gondola, boat, or subway, which all raise different concerns.
Knowing ahead of time means you can prepare your child for the experience and discuss issues with the teacher or chaperone. I once had a student break down into tears as we boarded a dinner cruise on a school trip to Washington, D.C. because she was deathly afraid of being on the water. If I had known ahead of time, I would have been more prepared to help her cope or to make alternative plans.
Take time to talk through what the travel experiences will be like with your child, prepare things to do onboard long bus or plane rides, pack snacks and water as needed, and explain what to do in the case of an emergency to help relieve anxiety.
If your child has motion sickness, asthma, or other health conditions, you should talk about what to do during travel times and discuss the plan with his or her teacher. I had a proactive parent talk to me about her son’s claustrophobia, so we sat in him the front of the bus with a view out of the big window. Most schools require an adult to carry all medication and parents to sign a medical release, so make sure you know the procedure if you’re planning to send any meds.
2. What activities will be offered?
Some field trips are structured as a reward for students, like a day at the bowling alley or the beach, while others have an educational focus.
It’s not the location or focus that matters so much as the activities that are planned. They make all the difference when it comes to kids learning about the world around them as well as growing socially and emotionally from the experience.
Unstructured time is when issues usually pop up, so knowing the itinerary will help you feel more confident about the trip. If the plans are somewhat in the air, ask to be filled in when plans are arranged or offer to help. Teachers are so short on time these days, most will truly appreciate any help they can get.
3. What will they learn?
Time outside of the classroom lends itself to all kinds of learning experiences from curriculum connections to independent learning. Being in a new environment offers new perspectives, encourages questions, and builds connections that they will remember for years to come. If the learning opportunities aren’t made clear, just ask. Sometimes teachers don’t know how much you want to know about the experience and they will be happy to hear you want to learn more.
Here are a few posts about the many things kids can learn on an educational tour.
- 3 Ways School Trips Support the Emotional Growth of Tweens and Teens
- Exceed Curriculum Standards With Your Student Trip
- 3 Unexpected Things "Your Kids" Will Learn On A School Trip
4. Who is responsible?
There are two people who you need to be sure to know. The first is the person in charge of the trip, especially if it includes an overnight stay. This is the person who will be able to answer your questions about transportation, learning outcomes, and logistics.
The other person you should know is your child’s chaperone. This could be a teacher or another parent who has been assigned a group to supervise. Before most overnight trips there is a parent meeting where details of the itinerary are discussed. This is a good time to meet the chaperones, so they know you and your child before hitting the road.
If the school is working with a travel company, ask for the website or contact information so you can learn more about the services the company provides.
5. What are the dos and don’ts?
The best way to keep kids safe and to head off any discipline issues is to make sure kids understand the behavior expectations up front. Parents should know the rules as well to help reinforce the message. While less of a safety issue, the use of electronics is something that should be clearly understood by everyone to avoid consequences that can detract from the experience.
Helping prepare your child to make the most of the educational experience should be your goal. If you have the information you need as the parent, you will ready to help make that happen.