NYC is your classroom
A teacher at PS 6 in Manhattan led a group of cheering 1st-graders out of the school’s front doors and onto the sidewalk on March 18, 2022. The cause for the celebration? It was the school’s first official post-pandemic field trip — and for some of the young students, it was their first school trip ever.
With spring just around the corner, now is the perfect time to think about expanding your teaching beyond the walls of your classroom with a field trip — and there’s no better place to bring students on a class trip than in New York City. Beyond classic destinations like the city’s museums and historic sites, your students can harvest oysters in New York Harbor with the Billion Oyster Project, pilot simulated aircraft at the New York City Center for Space Science Education and build their own robots at the Brooklyn Robot Foundry. Check out the UFT's Class Trips section for inspiration!
Here are some tips to help you plan a trip:
Connect with your curriculum. The most powerful trips for your students will be the ones that help them make connections with the learning they’re doing in your classroom both before and after the trip.
Before the trip, talk with your students about what they’ll see and do and what they should hope to accomplish. If you’re bringing students on a self-guided field trip — meaning you’re bringing them to a destination but they aren’t participating in a structured activity — many sites offer printable scavenger hunts, field guides or self-paced activities students can complete during their visit.
After the trip, students should continue to reflect on what they experienced and how it correlates with what they’re learning. That way, the trip isn’t over when they return to the classroom.
Think through travel logistics. The city Department of Education’s Office of Pupil Transportation has guidelines for requesting yellow bus service for field trips. Buses must leave from your school after 9:30 a.m. and return before 1:30 p.m. You can request one-way bus service for trips that may return to school late — for instance, the Office of Pupil Transportation won’t provide round-trip bus service to destinations like the Statue of Liberty or Chelsea Piers. It’s your responsibility (or your school’s) to provide directions to the bus driver.
If you plan to travel by subway, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org for a pass that will entitle you to free subway transportation for up to 40 students and four adults.
Consider costs. Many destinations offer discounts or free programs to Title 1 schools, and some schools may draw from other sources of funding to defray the cost of trips for students. But your school may have its own internal guidelines or policies — a charge of $15 per student, for instance, might be considered acceptable at one school but cost-prohibitive at another. Check with other teachers or with your administrator before you plan.
Expand your horizons. Some units in your curriculum may naturally lend themselves to classic field trip destinations in New York City. But the theme of other destinations can align with your curriculum in ways you may not expect. Kindergartners who are learning about places in their community will benefit from trips to ordinary community destinations like the post office. Students who are working on “how to” pieces in writing can visit a restaurant to practice writing a step-by-step guide to making a meal.
Even a walk through the neighborhood to visit the public library or survey local flora and fauna can be a thrilling change of pace. For many students — like the delighted 1st-graders at PS 6 — the joy of a field trip is truly in the journey itself.