10 Reasons We Say “No” to School Field Trips

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10 Reasons We ‘”No” to School Field Trips

I’m sure you can think of more but let’s start by discussing the top 10 reasons we say “no” to our kids’ school field trips. Why waste hard-earned money sending kids on expensive, horror-filled jaunts when they can participate in productive, adequately supervised, safe learning routines?

How often are we really saying “no” to school field trips?

I wanted to find out the total number of kids traveling on school related field trips each year. This included local, national, or travel abroad to see how often we are saying “no” to these excursions. As a result, I did some research. Consequently, I found The Student and Youth Travel Association reported that 33 billion dollars and 23% of the total global travel market were accounted for by student travelers. The U.S. domestic student travel market raked in an impressive $5.6 billion and accounted for 50% of the motorcoach market, which transports 604 million passengers annually.

In other words, 23% of international travelers are young learners, and the wheels on the bus go round and round for over 300 million kids hoping to gain knowledge outside of the classroom. If so many youths are riding these adventure buses and flying to distant lands, then why should you ‘just say no’? Right. Maybe you shouldn’t. Let’s look at the most common 10 reasons we say no to school field trips, and perhaps reevaluate our decisions.

“I say ‘no’ to school field trips because they’re too dangerous.”

1. “It’s too scary. What if something happens?” 

Of the 10 reasons we say “no” to school field trips, I can relate to this one the most. Many have this concern. We need to protect our kids at all costs, and how can we do that when they’re not nearby? The Forum on Education Abroad conducted a study based on combined insurance claim data from two travel insurance agencies. Identifying mortality rates of students who remained at their campuses versus those studying abroad was their primary objective. Talk about scary. I just thought my kid would feel lonely, or at the very worst, sprain an ankle. Geez. Way to bring the gloom. It turns out we’re not the only ones with these concerns. Why else would they do such a study, right?

Could we be wrong in saying “no” to school field trips?

Guess what they found? It seems that despite our totally-reasonable, not-at-all-paranoid or in any-way-unfounded fears, we were wrong. They discovered that a student is twice as likely to have fatal encounters at home (on or near-campus) than while studying abroad. The study included 146,898 insured students.  When they results came in, they revealed that only 10% of all student travelers filed insurance claims while overseas. Of that total 10%, sniffles and stuffy noses made up 20% of these medical claims while a whopping 40% described as “other” includes fractures, dislocations, joint injuries, or sprains (See? I knew it!).

It is also prudent to note that insurance companies indicated many of the accidents happened outside of the regularly scheduled educational activities. So maybe it’s not so not-safe after all.

“I say ‘no’ to school field trips because we can’t afford them.”

2. “It’s too expensive.” 

I was a single mom on a limited income for a long time. Therefore, this, too, would have been one of my 10 reasons to say “no” to my child’s school field trip. I get it. Your fourth grader arrives home bursting with excitement. He’s relentlessly pleading to go on that school field trip,. You do consider the possibility. Why would you want to intentionally deprive him of this incredibly fabulous end-of-year right-of-passage river rafting voyage which everyone else is going on?

He’s so excited, but the money just isn’t there.

His mind’s eye has a clear picture. He’s bobbing happily between the rocky canyon walls as his wild eyes strategically search the stony hills for glimpses of Bighorn Sheep. Better yet, Mountain Lion! Meanwhile, you must cast that net. Reluctantly, you reel in his dreams with a firm “No.”

He can practically feel the mist of the swell on his face as the pontoon boat glides majestically down the Colorado River. But, it doesn’t matter. You have no choice. You have to shoot him down. The price tag for this aquatic day trip is upwards of $100. Further, it’s not even a whole day. It’s just a school day. Plus, we could go right back to that first reason; it’s also pretty scary. Who in their right mind puts a bunch of nine-year-olds on a raging river? Crazy people, right?

I’m sure I considered at least 9 of the 10 reasons to say “no “to this school field trip when I first heard about rafting. I’m the teacher!

Okay, call me crazy. I was a fourth-grade teacher in the state of Nevada for six years. So, I must be six times as crazy. Not only did I do it each year, but it was my favorite trip until we started flying with them to Carson City. (The Carson City price tag was almost three times higher, and the scary factor for parents was totally off the charts!)

My goal for each of those six years was to achieve 100% class attendance on the Black Canyon rafting excursion. Therefore, I desperately hoped parents wouldn’t say “no” to this school field trip. Indeed, this was a fourth graders right of passage. We spent the entire year learning everything about our home state in the classroom. Certainly, this rugged treat was the culminating glue neatly tying everything together. Importantly, we were able to explore our history, geography, and science standards all at once.

This school field trip truly is an amazing educational experience.

Our Nevada textbook came to life.  We gawked in disbelief every time we spotted Osprey, Great Blue Heron, or even the occasional awe-inspiring eagle’s flight. Images from books used during our indoor lessons were put to shame. Students watched Desert Bighorn Sheep skillfully maneuver their way down the steep and narrow canyon walls. “Oohs” and “Ahhs” echoed across the raft and vanished into blue skies as the sturdy creature reached the bottom. Where he, then, rewarded himself with a refreshing drink from the cooling water along the river’s edge.

“School field trips are a waste of time.”

3. “It’s just an off-campus field day; no one learns anything.” 

Have you ever taken your kids to a museum or historical landmark? Did  they roll their eyes as you try to read every placard with them? For instance, do they become mischievous because they’re bored?  Whine because they’re disinterested? I know. It’s frustrating. So why would a school field trip be any different? Teachers can’t possibly help kids learn anything in such an unstable setting. I mean, these school field trips are usually in expansive public places. How can one single teacher keep all those kids reigned in? Not to mention learning? How can kids make any significant gains outside the confines of their student desks?

I assure you. No school field trip is a free-for-all, haphazardly executed event. That is to say, teachers and the facilities which their classes visit prepare extensively for these activities.

Firstly, school field trips are chosen exclusively because they directly pertain to a specific area of student learning. When a child enters a museum with his or her class, the child knows why they’re there. Class discussions have set the stage for learning long before arrival. Students have probably been studying concepts, ideas, and theories related to the site for a while. When background knowledge is firmly in place, student engagement increases significantly. Secondly, behind the scenes, these preparations take a lot of time, so the 10 reasons to say “no” to school field trips, for teachers, quickly vanish altogether.

School Field trips are educationally rich  student learning experiences.

Moreover, some teachers prepare scavenger hunts or other activities which students complete while exploring the destination. Others administer tests or quizzes based on the information presented throughout the day. I always paired at least one graded activity with all school field trips.

Information transforms through experience. Witnessing events, artifacts, and examples first hand is powerful in education. Above all, school field trips solidify and validate messages delivered in the classroom. At the same time they’re building a bridge of personal connection between the student and those lessons taught. In other words, it’s not a field day; these may be the most critical days for attendance. The learning is immeasurable.

“Who’s really going to be watching MY kid on school field trips?”

4. “There aren’t enough chaperones.”

Again, I can understand why this would be on your list of 10 reasons to say “no” to school field trips. Safety is the number one concern for any parent. Most think it’s nearly impossible to look after 25 children at once in a crowded museum or other densely populated areas. Plus, many believe that there’s no way any other human being will be as vigilant with their child’s safety as they would be. There’s just no way.

On the contrary, these things aren’t just doable; they’re the absolute priority, even before learning. Safety always comes first. A few regular practices are always employed when it comes to taking a group of school children out for an adventure. Breaking them into smaller, more manageable chaperone led groups to ensure student safety is a standard procedure. Generally, the chaperone to student ratio is about 1:5. Each student is also assigned or gets to choose a partner. Then, they’re instructed to stick like glue to one another. In addition, head counting happens ad nauseam throughout the day.

Student safety is always the first priority on school field trips.

Whenever I took my class on school field trips, every detail was preplanned. Teachers and chaperones had all pertinent phone numbers so we could easily reach each other if we needed to. Facility guides were consistently on their game, supporting the flow and making transfers smooth and effortless. Furthermore, students were prepared weeks and days in advance. Expectations were clear.

Ready for a quick “school field trips” math lesson?

Let’s do the math: We can use the rafting trip as an example since it sounds the scariest. For this trip, we are certainly limited in the number of chaperones by the pontoon boat capacity. One class has around 25 kids. If every student attends, plus me and four chaperones, we’re looking at 30 total people. Each kid always had a partner, so I’d make three groups of 6 and one group of 7. Six is a manageable number of heads to count and bodies to look after. Being free from having a group allowed me to rotate and check on the four groups continually. If we had students choose not to attend the field trip, I would open up a new chaperone slot. So many times, we had even smaller groups and more adults watching over them.

I took my class river rafting every year for six years. That’s roughly 150 students plus the 450 fourth graders from other teachers’ classes (approximately 600 altogether. We didn’t always have perfect attendance, and two of the six years there were five fourth grade classes. 600 is a very reasonable estimate), and we had zero real issues.

Once we saw a rattlesnake in this cave! The driver pulls right up into it so we can talk about the reaction of the cave walls with the constant drizzling water of the hot springs. 2018 was another fun trip, no rattlesnakes that year!

Okay, that’s not entirely true…

One year, we did have one tiny mishap. A kid threw up at the first stop and had to go back to school with our fourth-grade aide. He had been sick but didn’t want to miss the trip, so he came to school and tried to power through. He got an “A” for effort even though he didn’t last long.

Another year, one of the other student-filled boats became heroes when they rescued a group of stranded canoers who somehow lost their vessels while they were off enjoying a dip in the hot springs. I assure you, there were a few important lessons learned from that particular encounter. Can you imagine what a shame it would have been if any of these students missed out on this experience for any of the 10 reasons we say “no” to school field trips?

“I can’t get there if something happens to my child when school field trips are miles away.”

5. “It’s too far. More than a few hours drive is just too far. I couldn’t get there fast enough if my child needed me.”

This too, appears to be one of the better of the 10 reasons not to let your child attend school field trips. Although it could be argued, the father, the better! Broader horizons equate to an increased potential for growth. Additionally, according to the statistics we read earlier, odds are, you won’t ever have to “get there.” Supervised, organized school field trips are the best and safest way to test the waters of independence, for students as well as for parents.

Think about it; they’re in a completely controlled environment with trusted adults hovering over them. (Who are just as nervous as you because, for one, these people care about your kid otherwise they wouldn’t be there, and they’re liable if anything were to happen). Furthermore, independence, confidence, and your child’s sense of responsibility each get boosted while they’re partaking in what will likely be one of the most memorable learning experiences of their life.

“I love it when the class goes on school field trips! I get bonus ‘fun time’ with my child.”

6. “My child learns all that stuff in school and has fun there. She doesn’t need to go anywhere else. I’ll keep her home that day, and we’ll do something fun together.” 

When it comes to school field trips, this is my biggest pet peeve and probably the worst of the 10 reasons, if you ask me. Parents in this situation don’t even realize how significantly this absence affects a child. Each experience holds tremendous value and potential for growth. Without question, your child should be learning each day in class; that’s the point. If she loves going to school, the idea of a school field trip is that much more thrilling for her. Since she is so invested in her own academic growth, the visit will be even more impactful. If she doesn’t love going to school, this could be the event that changes her perception about education. In addition to solidifying learning, school field trips are an opportunity to strengthen relationships with peers, teachers and a student’s own love of learning.

A significant loss occurs when students return to class after missing a field trip.

Even still, a more significant loss occurs here the day after the field trip. Feelings of loneliness and exclusion are inevitable upon returning to class because, while everyone else is discussing the trip and completing the related activities, she won’t be able to contribute to the conversation or relate to their enthusiasm. It’s always disappointing to see a student quietly shrinking at her desk while still trying to listen to the exciting stories being tossed back and forth like hot potatoes between friends eagerly reminiscing about the learning adventure they just shared.

“I want our whole family to go!”

7. “I’ll take my child to the museum/park/monument/etc. It sounds like a fun place for a family outing. Everyone would love to go.”

First of all, see reason #6. Second, yes, absolutely plan a family outing to the same destination. Choose a date after your child attends with their class. Then, your child can serve as the family’s guide and show off how much learning occurred during the class trip.

“My child can’t afford to miss school due to school field trips.”

8. “My child is struggling in math. How is a trip to the Hoover Dam going to help? He should be in class. He can’t miss lessons. His math intervention has been helping; he can’t afford to lose a day.” 

With the teacher, class, and probably the instructional aide gone for the day, any interventions or enrichment groups will not be meeting, so this is almost not even one of the 10 reasons to say no. Regular schedules resume upon return and pick up where they left off before the day spent off-campus.

Enrichment groups will probably not get rescheduled, but intervention groups usually will be, especially if there is an IEP or 504, which expressly and legally requires a set number of meeting minutes each week.

If your child attends another type of group or meeting regularly, such as meeting with the speech therapist, and the trip conflicts with this meeting, you can talk with the speech therapist about scheduling a make-up session to compensate for the lost time.

Don’t feel obligated to initiate rescheduling these.

If the facilitator feels as though they need to see your child, they will have already made changes to accommodate the field trip and ensure weekly minutes are satisfied. In this case, they probably won’t reach out to you to disclose the difference. They’ll reach out to the teacher since class time will be affected. I’ve had kids miss speech therapy or counselor meetings. These meetings are essential and do greatly benefit students, but missing a single session doesn’t appear to impact progress toward goals.

“My child’s needs can’t be accommodated on school field trips.”

9. “My child has medical needs that you can’t possibly address while on a field trip.” 

A recent heartwarming story which has gone viral proves that solutions are available when medical issues are involved.

10-year-old Ryan King didn’t want to let spina bifida prevent her from going on a nature hike with her class. After her mom, Shelly found a carrier that could be used to make piggybacking her daughter along the trails easier, though still a challenge, it seemed Ryan’s dream to attend this field trip would come true. CBS News reported that, after hearing about Shelly’s plan to carry her daughter on her back, Jim Freeman, a teacher at Ryan’s Ohio school, gallantly offered to take Shelly’s place. For about an hour, in 90-degree heat, he helped fulfill the little girl’s dream.

View the video of the CBS News Report here.

Ryan’s story and Jim’s contribution to the solution are extreme. If the trip were to a museum with wheelchair accessibility, there would have been no news to report. That trip also probably wouldn’t have been as much fun or meant so much to Ryan.

Teachers wear many hats. Although teachers haven’t received professional medical training, many of us are parents, and some of us have children who have medical needs similar to those of yours. We can handle most allergies or asthma. Without question, students prone to seizures or cardiac events need extra attention, will be monitored closely and should expect to be excluded from specific activities that may trigger episodes. If I were taking a student with such life-threatening conditions, I’d invite the parent if they hadn’t already offered to attend.

Generally speaking, if a child can attend school with accommodations, those same accommodations can be made on most school field trips.

This is the most valid of the 10 reasons we say “no” to our child’s school field trips. If your child has a medical condition that you feel is too severe for the type of field trip the class is attending, try to look at other options which can help your child gain the comparable knowledge attained on the trip. If you keep them home, use that day to impart the knowledge. There are resources available. Look for virtual field trips or ask your teacher if they have recommendations.

Don’t be afraid to think outside the box or ask for help. You know your child’s needs better than anyone, so if you believe attending the trip will put them in harm’s way, keep them home. Again, safety is always the first concern, even before education.

**In no way is this meant to serve as medical advice or recommendations. Always check with a doctor when seeking medical advice. Additionally, keep in mind that every teacher is different. Some may have alternate views regarding this matter.**

“If I’m not going on the school field trip, my child isn’t going.”

10. “I can’t believe I didn’t get picked to chaperone!  So not cool. My child can’t go.” (usually for one of reasons 1-9.) 

Understandably, you would want to attend school field trips so you can keep a close eye on your child in this new, unfamiliar setting. You may even want to go just because it sounds like a great time, and you’d like the opportunity to experience this fantastic learning adventure alongside your child.

Each educator has a preferred method for choosing chaperones for school field trips. Before I had an Amazon Dot in my classroom, I would write all volunteer names on small pieces of paper, wad them up, and have students randomly pluck the desired number of names from a bowl. After I got my Dot, I’d ask Alexa to choose a number. If I had five slots open, I’d have her pick a random number from 1-5. If she picked the same one twice, we’d ask her to choose again. It was a process that kept me honest while letting kids know the selection was fair. It wasn’t perfect. Students would still get upset when their parent wasn’t selected. Parents would send angry emails. But it was the best I could do.

Teachers do their best to be fair when choosing chaperones for school field trips. Do your best to support them.

When you freak out because you didn’t get picked, you ruin everyone’s day, so don’t. It wasn’t personal. Please understand, by making this into a big deal, you are causing your child stress and unnecessary worry. School field trips are meant to be fun learning experiences. A finite number of chaperones can attend. It’s just the way it is. Be a grown-up and set a good example for your offspring. Children shouldn’t miss excellent educational opportunities due to sheer “luck of the draw” and parents inability to accept it. (Can you tell this one hits a nerve for me?)

Whenever a police officer, firefighter, or trained medical professional volunteered to chaperone for school field trips, rules changed.  I would automatically decrease the number of random-draw pulls. Wouldn’t you want one of these people on any trip with your family? I would think so. Safety is always the priority on school field trips. Teachers dream of having someone attend whose life’s purpose is to ensure the safety and well being of others. We welcomed them with open arms and a clear conscience.

If you’ve read this far, you’re a trooper, and I appreciate you.

The bottom line is, you or I could probably come up with a hundred reasons to say “no” to our kids’ school field trips. However, we’d be doing our children a terrible injustice. I vividly remember many of my childhood school field trips. We’d be taking from them the very things that ignite one’s love of learning- authentic experiences, personal connections, and put simply, the fun of it.

What do you think? Leave a comment!

If you’re a parent, what are your reasons for saying “no”?

Teacher, what are some other reasons you’ve heard? Which irk you the most? Can you relate to any of them?

Parents, what can be done to make you more comfortable sending your child on a field trip?

Teachers, have you ever said “no” to a field trip pitch because it sounded crazy? Where did they want you to go?

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