An educational group trip, such as a class trip or school excursion, has a lot of factors to consider when planning the trip. Whatever your experience level, navigating the complexities of an educational visit always remains a challenge. School trips can provide students with hands-on opportunities and enhance their course experience, but they also can be a major headache if they aren't well planned. GroupTools is here to help make planning even the most involved group trips a breeze, so we’ve put together a guide to planning your next educational visit.
An early start to planning is key for educational group travel. Planning a minimum of 6-12 months in advance of your trip allows time to accommodate all of the unique planning items that are involved in school travel organization such as:
- Selecting appropriate dates that fit in with approved school travel schedules.
- Working with your principal and school administrators for necessary approvals.
- Determining a school-approved budget and funding options.
- Filing all necessary school and district paperwork to be able to kick off your planning process.
GroupTools Tip: While you’re the main group leader for the trips you plan in GroupTools, you can easily have other teachers who are planning the trip, your school administration team, or other relevant parties such as chaperones informed and involved in the planning progress by adding them as additional group leaders on any trip.
Setting Your Itinerary
After the school requirements are handled, you can turn your attention to creating an itinerary that both meets the needs of your students and reflects your course learning objectives.
When selecting a destination for your educational group trip, you should identify places that tie into your lessons. These places should strengthen your curriculum goals and provide options for real-life learning onsite.
GroupTools Tip: If you have a few destination options and your students are in the correct age range to do so, consider involving them in the selection. Set up a survey in GroupTools and invite the class to share their votes with you to finalize where you will visit. Giving students a voice in the planning process can increase their class engagement and build excitement for the trip.
Adding Educational Group Activities
The key to planning the perfect activities for your class trip is approaching your itinerary the same way you would approach a lesson plan. Having clearly defined learning goals for your trip will make lining up the right activities a much easier task. Once you’ve selected the activities to add, it’s important to consider how your students will take part in them.
Managing class-wide group activities when you’re outside of the classroom can be difficult, so breaking into smaller groups can be beneficial. Students can better focus on specific aspects of the trip as well as get more individual attention to enhance their experience through smaller group activities. You can bring the groups back together and unify the experience once you’re back in the classroom to share their lessons and takeaways from the trip.
GroupTools Tip: Take a moment to add all of the activities to your GroupTools event so that your students and their parents will know what to expect from the trip. If you’re doing assigned small groups, keep a single option for each activity but, if you’re allowing students to self-organize their small groups, consider adding an option to each activity for the sub-groups so that your students can easily opt-in to the group they choose. Whichever path you take, GroupTools will handle all the counts for you as your students RSVP.
Arrange for Meals and Transportation
Another important itinerary detail is how you will transport your students to and from their destination and how they will be fed. For transportation, some options to consider are the use of school buses or private charter bus transportation and the relevant availability, paperwork, and costs associated with each.
For meals, explore options at your class trip venue such as picnic areas or cafeterias and restaurants that may be available on site. If the destination offers facilities but not food, boxed lunch catering can be a cost-effective choice or off-site restaurants on your route can be considered as well. Be sure to keep in mind the dietary needs of your students when making these selections.
GroupTools Trip: If your trip allows for some students to be transported by their parents or to pack a lunch, consider making the transportation and meal items on your itinerary optional so that only the students you will need to include in the counts for these are opted in.
Plan for Downtime
Though students will benefit from the educational aspects of the trip, you don't want them to feel like they're in class all the time. Planning to have free time in your trip itinerary is a must to keep your students engaged. Adding in break times at your venue is an easy way to include downtime in your plan. Depending on your school's trip policies, you may also want to spend time at a park, or someplace else, to relax in addition to your official trip destination. Just make sure you can supervise properly, and that everyone knows when to return.
Other Key Considerations
There are real barriers to school and parent participation in field trips when legal actions and unfortunate events can be a concern. Ensuring that you have the right safety and supervision in place as well as the proper paperwork can eliminate these concerns and get your educational group travel plan the buy-in it needs from both parents and the school board.
To handle your students effectively, you should ensure that you have adequate adult supervision. You might want to ask your administrator about taking your teacher's aide, student teachers, or other appropriate school personnel on the trip. You may need to ask for parent volunteers as well.
Assignment of one or more adults to each small group of students is an effective way to ensure that proper supervision levels are being met. List the student group members for each staff member and parent volunteer. These lists can be used for roll calls and accurate counts to keep each group properly organized and supervised at every stop along the way.
GroupTools Tip: In addition to ensuring proper supervision, a great way to give parents peace of mind is to keep them up-to-date, especially when you are on the trip. Including parents on the attendee list of your GroupTools event will allow you to easily send them secure messages through both GroupTools and their email quickly and easily before, during, and after the trip. This will help to keep their minds at rest and keep all your trip-related communications organized in one place.
You should obtain permission forms from the school to be given to each student to take home to their parents. In the absence of standardized permission slips, you can create a form that includes all the details about the field trip, such as the date, time, location, pick-up and drop-off times, food to be taken, money to be carried, dress code and any other details the parents should be aware of before signing and permitting their children to attend.
Planning carefully for all contingencies is especially important in the current climate. The following forms should all be considered for including in your permission paperwork: COVID information, school and venue releases, and student health forms.
GroupTools Tip: You can upload all your permission and important documents to your GroupTools event to eliminate the possibility of students losing their paperwork. As well, once parents complete the forms and upload them they are sent to your email securely and directly giving you a full repository of your needed information while protecting the privacy and important details of your students.
Teachers have a great deal of responsibility to ensure the safety of students while taking them on an educational group trip. Here are some tips that are helpful when it comes to ensuring student safety:
- The CDC currently recommends limiting field trips and other in-person interactions, for any planned and approved trips be sure to follow the current guidelines in place by the CDC throughout your trip.
- As a teacher, you are aware of the general medication, dietary, and major health needs of your students but, when preparing for educational group travel you should take time to re-familiarize yourself with the health needs of all your students so they are fresh in your mind during the trip.
- Prepare your parent volunteers for the trip with proper safety training to ensure they are up-to-date on the guidelines for the trip, meet the health requirements for participation, and that they can properly guide and aid the students in trip safety goals as well.
- Educate your students about the safety guidelines and provide additional safety tips for the trip and let them know who they are supposed to reach out to when they need any help.
- Let the students know they are going to be divided into groups and also let them know who they are going to be with so that they can be comfortable around the students in their group.
- Consider hybrid or virtual field trip options to accommodate the safety and enrichment of your students and to provide a safe option for the whole class to be able to participate.
Why Plan Your Educational Group Travel with GroupTools?
GroupTools has all the features you need to safely and effectively plan your class trips. The web-based application is easily accessible from all devices for school staff, parents, and students and can support both traditional classes and online learning scenarios. GroupTools makes it easy to engage parents and students with online registration, surveys, and more keeping them involved in the process. With options for integrated online payment processing or providing your own payment method, funding for field trips is always covered and able to meet school standards, As well, the private event format and secure paperwork options built into GroupTools keep school and student information safe.
GroupTools can be used individually by educators or be managed by administrators to streamline the process with a unified solution for organizing educational group trips and events school-wide. Finally, GroupTools is a free resource for educational planners fitting it into any school or teacher’s budget. To plan the best field trips for your class, visit grouptools.com to learn more, or click here to get started for free today.