Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Beyond the Classroom

Maia C's Photostream, Detroit Institute of Arts Flickr pool

With the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs Field Trip Grant deadline just around the corner (January 16), it seems timely to discuss taking your students out of the walls of your classroom and into the museums and cultural centers to experience Art. These offer students the opportunity to experience Art in the field with experts in the profession. Although it may seem intimidating at first, here are some surefire tips on organizing efficient trips that you and your students will enjoy:

  • Plan ahead. This seems like a common sense thing to do, but it is very crucial to plan ahead for your trip. Make sure to research where you are taking kids and their policies for student tour groups. Requirements and expectations vary depending on venue. Some basic things to plan for is a schedule for the day, lunches, as well as what students will do to make up work missed in other classes. You will also want to plan for the unknown. Have scenarios thought out about what you would do in case of bad weather, a sick student, or if the schedule moves faster than anticipated. Being prepared helps avoid problem scenarios as well as gives students the security of a plan for the day away from school. 
  • Ask for help. Parents are a great resource for chaperones. Make sure you give ample time for communication to parents about your trip and how many volunteers are needed. Divide students among parents by providing lists of the names as well as a list of expectations for behavior. It is important to be clear in your expectations of parents as chaperones and students as participants. If you are not, then you open yourself up to potential problems. 
  • Partner up. When I planned my first field trip, I went with another teacher on my team. This helped me gain the experience and confidence to go it alone the next time. This also offers a great opportunity to pair up with a teacher from another content to make the connections between their subject and yours using authentic examples from the field.
  • Communicate with your colleagues. Field trips offer an awesome opportunity for students to learn about a subject face to face. It can, however, be a burden on teachers when they have students missing work in their class to be gone for the day. To help lessen this issue, email teachers well ahead of the trip (more than two weeks prior) as well as the week before. Students should also ask for work from their teachers before missing that day so they can work on ahead of time. Consider allowing students time to make up missed work if needed during your class time; when teachers work together to solve issues of missed work due to field trips it eases any tension that could occur otherwise. 
What has been your most successful field trip? What are your favorite venues to take kids? Please post any suggestions you have about organizing field trips and where to take students to get the most impact.

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