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Planning field trips

New York Teacher

With spring just around the corner, it’s the perfect time to think about how to expand your teaching beyond the walls of your classroom. One way to do that is by taking your class on a trip.

There’s no better place to plan a class trip than in New York City. Your students can do everything from traveling back in time at the oldest farm in New York State, the Queens County Farm Museum, to exploring the city’s wastewater treatment system at the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant.

No matter what grade or subject you teach, there’s a trip for you. Here are some tips to help you plan.

Think through the logistics. If you plan to use the Department of Education’s yellow bus service, the Office of Pupil Transportation has its own requirements: Buses must leave from your school after 9:30 a.m. and return before 1:30 p.m. The DOE also requires that, for classes of up to 30 students in elementary and middle schools, at least two additional adults accompany the teacher. (High school classes require only one additional chaperone.)

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.

Consider collaboration. If you work with other teachers on the same grade or subject, you may want to team up. At some schools, for instance, teachers rotate planning duties so that everyone takes a turn coordinating a trip for the entire grade.

Expand your horizons. Some units in your curriculum may naturally lend themselves to classic field-trip destinations in New York City. Third-graders studying Egypt in social studies, for instance, will get a lot out of a trip to the wing of ancient Egyptian art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

But less conventional destinations can also align with your curriculum. 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.

Check our some of the many possibilities »

Connect with your curriculum. The most powerful trips for students will be those that help them make connections with what they’re learning in the classroom, before and after the trip.

Before the trip, talk with your students about what they’ll see and do and what they hope to accomplish. When Jonathan George, a teacher at MS 447 in Brooklyn, took his 8th-graders to the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian in lower Manhattan, he gave his students a specific task: to sketch and reflect on a Native innovation that correlated with a modern invention.

After the trip, give students a chance to continue reflecting on their experiences and how they correlate with what they’re learning. That way, the trip isn’t over when they return to the classroom.