So, if you're an educator and you want to provide that real-world experience to your students, what can you do? While there aren't one-size-fits-all resources on the Internet that will do everything for you, there are a few very good references and tools that you can use to plan out the best educational field trip experience for your students.
The following are five websites that can help you get started with organizing, planning and carrying out a great field trip with the least amount of effort.
The most impressive tool for planning out your field trip and keeping track of everything along the way is actually a template that is available for free from Microsoft. You can download the Excel planner template for free, and it comes with all kinds of spreadsheets that will help you plan out your entire trip.
MS Office Excel Template
Once you click on the download link, you can download the singe Excel file that contains all of the forms and checklists. Opening the file with Excel, you'll see very nicely formatted spreadsheets included an overview page that gives you a checklist of everything you need to do, and sheets for planning things out four weeks in advance, tracking information about the sites you're going to visit, and keeping track of student and chaperone information.
MS Office Excel Sheets
In reality, this one download is all you really need to organize and track your entire trip in one easy-to-use file.
Beyond just planning out the trip and tracking information, you'll also need ideas for things that your students can do during the trip. One creative idea that author Cheryl Grinn of Sleeping Bear Press came up with is a "P is for Passport" activity guide.
P is for Passport
Grinn offers a 31 page PDF booklet that includes a wide variety of fun travel-related activities that are appropriate for a good range of elementary school students. This kind of booklet is a great activity to do with students prior to traveling, or even better as something for them to do on the bus during a long road trip.
Speaking of long bus trips, if your school doesn't have a bus available for the trip, you can always secure the services of an educational travel business like Kewl Educational Travel. This site offers a "Create Your Own Itinerary" tool where you can map out the entire route of your field trip and list each place you want to go. The charter agency provides the bus, as well as help with planning out the entire trip.
Kewl Educational Travel Itinerary
The online itinerary form helps you to organize your trip into destinations, attractions and an overall day-by-day itinerary.
Kewl Educational Travel Itinerary
If you'd rather let someone else do all of the work, then by all means take advantage of the educational field trip planning services that companies like this offer.
The "History Detectives" on PBS is an informative show that explores different historical mysteries by traveling to locations and trying to uncover insights into a historic time or place.
As part of its online offerings, the show offers a helpful "Taking a Field Trip" guide for grades 6-12 that will help teachers put together the objectives, materials and lesson plan together for a very educational field trip. At the bottom of the guide, you'll find links to forms that would prove very helpful for teachers that are organizing any field trip.
For example, you can use the Field trip Organizer to plan out your entire trip from start to finish, and rest assured that you haven't forgotten anything.
History Detectives Field Trip Organizer
You'll also find a Field Trip Permission form that you can customize for your needs, a Chaperone Guide to give to your chaperones, and a field trip manifest - a one-sheet list of all student names, responsible parents, and emergency telephone numbers.
History Detectives Field Trip Manifest
You'll want this manifest with you at all times during the trip so that you can quickly do roll-call and make sure all students are present at each location.
The University of Rhode Island W. Alton Jones Campus has a Field Trip Planning Guide published online. One of the best ways to plan out your own field guide is to follow along with the template that other people use. The URI field guide is an excellent example of a complete 6 page guide that you could customize for the sort of trip that you plan to take.
URI Planning Guide
Also, keep in mind that many of the sites that you'd like to go also include their own tips, guides and pamphlets that can help you in planning out your own trip. For example, the Gettysburg National Military Park, an extremely popular tourist attraction for school trips, offers teachers with a field trip planner completely customized for any field trips to Gettysburg.
Gettysburg Planning Guide
Similarly, many other sites that that are popular as educational field trips also offer guides and other resources for teachers that are planning such a trip. So, make sure that when you choose the destinations that you want to bring your students to, that you check out the websites and look for any resources those locations offer to teachers.
Planning out a field trip can easily turn into an overwhelming experience, so make sure that you use all of the online resources available to you to keep the process much simpler, and to keep the overall field trip more enjoyable for everyone.