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Teach High School Science

Anatomy of a Field Trip
Judy Jones

I have found that one of the most enduring and inspiring experiences that a student can have is an extended field trip that is related to what is being studied in the classroom. You might be thinking that you would never want to spend that much time with a group of adolescents, but in fact, I think I enjoy these trips as much as the students!

Recently, a subset of my seniors (Biology 2 students) went on a three day trip to visit some interesting museums and also the National Institutes of Health on the east coast. This trip was linked to their study of human biology – human genetics, evolution, physiology and health.

In this article, I will explain all the steps that go into planning such a trip. It may seem like a lot, but truly, it is not overwhelming. I just got home from this trip and I am already planning next year’s experience!

DECIDE YOUR DATES: First you have to decide on the dates of your trip – that involves working with your school calendar and your administrators. Our trip was originally scheduled for February 10-12, but due to snow in the northeast, we had to change it to March 10-12 (that was a nuisance!)

DEVELOP AN ITINIERARY: Next, you develop an itinerary. As you think about your itinerary, you want to make sure you have some activity such as walking each day. Plan for transitions and arrange for meals that don’t cost too much. On some trips, I have even taken students to a baseball game in the evening (Orioles). These evening activities can tire them out and make your night in the motel so much more pleasant! You also want to plan for attractions that connect to your curriculum.

ARRANGE TRANSPORTATION: You need to contact the bus company. I use Holiday Tours, but there are others. I give them our itinerary and they look this over, arrange the motels, and give us a contract. This contract will determine how much we need to charge each student. The bus company will also require a deposit and possibly the complete payment before the trip. (We do collect a tip for the bus driver at the end) Be sure to include your bus driver in events if he or she would like to join you.

CONTACT MUSEUMS or ATTRACTIONS: As part of planning the itinerary, you need to contact the museums and schedule your visits. Some museums require a deposit and ultimately full payment, so make sure to do this.

GET SCHOOL PERMISSION: At our school, once our date is determined, we have to fill out a request for a field trip. This request includes the bus company, the cost for students, a copy of the permission slip, the chaperone names, and a few other details. These trips are always approved if the paperwork is complete!

PERMISSION SLIPS and DEPOSITS: Then, I send the permission slips out with the students. These permission slips include a cover letter with the itinerary and forms for parental permission, a request for medical information, and acknowledgements from each of the other teachers that the student has told them about the trip. I work with our family specialists to make sure that no student is kept from going for financial reasons. We have a small foundation that gives students money for field trips if they do some small amount of service work. Our students can also earn $7.00 per hour for work in our district thrift shop. I usually collect a non-refundable deposit which secures a place for the student and then later collect the rest of the money. We always give students receipts.

THE ITINERARY: I have included the itinerary for our trip below. But in short, we drove from NC to Washington, DC the first day. We saw the Museum of Natural History (evolution and forensics exhibits) and then we walked to Union Station – a great place to eat – lots of inexpensive options. Then we drove to a motel in Philadelphia. The idea is to tire the students out so they sleep once you get to the motel!!

The next morning we saw Body World at the Franklin Institute, ate lunch there, and then walked to the Mutter Museum (a museum of medical curiosities). Both of these museums cost money – so the cost of the trip for the students included the admissions for these two museums, the two nights in a motel (with continental breakfasts), and the bus ride. Students had to bring extra cash for snacks, dinners, and lunches. We drove back to Washington, DC that evening.

On Friday morning, we saw the National Institutes of Health Sequencing Center in Rockville, MD. And then we drove home!

For each of the long drives from Chapel Hill to Washington, DC and back, we stopped at an exit that features a lot of fast food restaurants to give the students (and chaperones and bus driver) a break!

RULES and INSTRUCTIONS: I use email to remind students about times and expectations. I don’t like to get so involved with all the rules that I forget the excitement of the trip. With seniors, I keep the rules simple but there are things that need to be stressed.

  1. QUIET in motels.
  2. KEEP the motel rooms neat.
  3. STAY in rooms after 11 pm.
  4. BE ON TIME – this means being where you are supposed to be when we are ready for a new event.
  5. BRING a picture ID (for some events this is necessary).
  6. NO illegal substances. (We follow school rules when traveling.)

A couple of times, I have joined with a social studies teachers to create an integrated experience – science attractions and U.S. history attractions. This has been fun and I learned a lot about how to do these extended field trips from him. If you are interested in planning a trip, you might find a partner teacher and work together on it. Sharing the work and the responsibility is much easier and more fun.

February 10-12, 2010

Wednesday, February 10
7:00 AM Leave ECHHS
10:30 AM Late breakfast/early lunch in Fredericksburg, Va.
1:00 PM Arrive National Mall, Washington, to visit the Natural History Museum
10th St. & Constitution Ave. NW, in Washington, D.C. 20560 (202) 633-1000
Evolution Focus: http://mnh.si.edu/exhibits/darwin/
Visit other museums as interested.
5:30 PM Meet at Natural History Museum
6:00-8:00 PM Subway to dinner and browsing, Union Station
50 Massachusetts Avenue Northeast Washington, DC
8:00-9:30 PM Bus to Philadelphia and stay in a motel near there
Comfort Inn Downtown Historic area
100 N. Columbus Blvd., Philadelphia, PA 19106
Ph. 215-627-7900
11:00 PM Room check

Thursday, February 11
8:00 AM Wake up and eat breakfast
9:00 AM Bus leaves for Philadelphia
10:00 AM Body Worlds Exhibit @ Franklin Institute Science Museum
222 North 20th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103
(1-800-285-0684 or 215-448-1200)

1:00 PM Lunch at Museum or nearby
1:30 PM Walk to Mutter Museum
2:00 PM Visit Mutter Museum, 19 South 22nd Street, Philadelphia, PA
(215) -563-3737

5:00 PM Bus to Washington DC area
7:30 PM Dinner near Comfort Inn
9:00 PM Springhill Suites Washington Dulles 22595 Shaw Rd, Dulles, VA 20166
Ph. 703-444-3944
11:00 PM Room check

Friday, February 12
7:00 AM Wake up, eat breakfast
8:00 AM Load bus, leave hotel
9:00 AM National Institutes of Health – Intramural Sequencing Center
5625 Fishers Lane, Rockville, MD (301) 451-0282
12:00 PM Leave for ECHHS
1:00 PM Lunch somewhere on the way home
6:00 PM Arrive ECHHS

Holiday Tours Colleague (“Cell phone number”)
Randleman, NC Judy Jones (“Cell phone number”)
1-800-444-3952 Parent (“Cell phone number”)

As always if you have questions or contributions, please feel free to contact me.


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