A Pumpkin for Everyone

The annual first-grade field trip to the pumpkin patch is coming up. All students in the first grade are allowed to go as long as permission slips have been signed.

However, in order to pick a pumpkin out at the end of the field trip, a $5 fee must be paid by a certain date.

$5 for a school field trip isn’t a huge ask for parents… but for some parents, it’s everything. It’s more than they can give to allow their child the simple indulgence of picking a pumpkin at the end of the field trip.

On the day of the event, several kids will leave the farm with a small pumpkin.

And several will walk away empty-handed.

Maybe the parent forgot to send the money. Maybe the parent truly could not afford the money. Maybe the money was swapped with a 5th grader at recess for a candy bar, I don’t know the circumstances.

But what I did know was that some kids would be walking away without a pumpkin. And my heart broke for those students, regardless of the why.

So we sent an extra $20. It wasn’t much. It may not even cover every single child in the classroom that didn’t pay the $5 fee.

But I’m helping how and when I can, and I’m working hard to teach my children to do the same.

To find the friend on the playground who doesn’t have anyone else to play with and invite them into your game.

To notice the classmate feeling down and ask how you can help.

Because school is really cool, and we are there to learn how to read and add up numbers. But we’re also there to learn how to be really awesome human beings full of empathy and service.

So pay the extra field trip money.

Send a second sandwich in their lunch for someone who needs it.

Donate the dry-erase markers.

Because when our kids see us treating others in schools this way, they’ll turn around and do the same.

No Funding For Field Trips? Try These Ideas

Is May field trip season for other schools too, not just ours? It’s such a busy time of the school year! 

I know we’re not alone with the struggle of under-funding for the school in general, but especially with field trips. However, it’s still important for our students to get out into our communities to learn and grow! Here are some ideas on how to hold field trips when funding isn’t available or is limited. 

Fundraise: I knooooow, I can hear the groans through the screen of your preferred device. Fundraising can be so daunting and exhausting, but it doesn’t have to be. Put the kids in charge! Let them brainstorm and help out as much as possible. And involve parents, too. This way you have help and everything doesn’t have to fall on you. The 1st graders in our school did a year-long fundraiser where they sold smelly pencils and erasers after school. One student was in charge each day and they worked together to raise money, enough to fund a field trip to the local bowling alley! 

Reach out to businesses/ field trip locations: Some zoos, aquariums, arcades, playlands, etc. are willing to offer grant applications or extremely reduced pricing for school field trips, especially if you qualify under Title I. It never hurts to ask what they are willing to do for you when funding is limited! 

Find free locations: If your school is close to a local park, library, college, grocery store, restaurant, business, etc. utilize these free locations to cut down on costs greatly! 

Walk, if possible: And if any of these locations are within a reasonable distance of your school, walk there! It’s like two field trips in one when you not only have the main activity, but the walk to and from as well! 

Ask for donations: I knooooow it’s almost worse than fundraising! Because it feels very vulnerable. But when your heart is in the right place trying to raise funds to bring your students on a field trip, it’s a worthwhile cause to ask others for help with funds. A simple letter home to parents about their plans for a field trip and what the cost will be while asking for help funding it, (and mentioning that even $1 helps!), can help raise you to your goal quickly. I know at least for me I’d rather just simply give my kid’s school money rather than jump through the hoops of fundraising. 

Look into virtual field trips/ Zooming with specialists: This became extremely popular in 2020 with the outbreak of COVID but has also been a practice for several years now. Virtual field trips can happen over Google, or you can find different specialists to schedule a Zoom call with for your class to chat with a zoologist or astronaut, or business owner, right from the comfort of your own classroom. 

There are so many benefits of field trips for any aged student, but that’s a post for another day! Needless to say, it’s worth it to put in the extra work and watch these students learn in a new environment. Field trips can be some of the most beneficial moments of their student careers! But they don’t have to be extravagant to be amazing. 

Cover photo by Kayla Wright

How Educational Is The Zoo- Really?

My daughter’s school is on a 4-day week schedule, making Fridays a stay-home day. The first few weeks of this new change proved itself somewhat challenging, she would be home during the day on Friday and struggle with being in a slower-paced routine of staying home. As a very extroverted soul, she needed human interaction, fast-paced, and as much learning as she could cram in. An in-person school situation really is where she thrives. 

On a random Friday nothing, in particular, was happening, so I made a very last-minute decision that we needed something to do for the day, so right then and there, our Friday Field Trips started. We packed sandwiches in a lunch box and took off to the capital city of Idaho for an afternoon at the zoo. 

I had the goal of making it educational for my daughter since that’s typically what she lacked on her day off from school. And educational, it was! Both through direct and indirect instruction. 

On the drive to the zoo, about 1.5 hrs from our home, we turned on the GPS and used the car mount to place it where everyone could see it. We had a very natural discussion about GPS, what it does for us, and how they’ve changed and evolved over the years (didn’t you have a huge, separate system in your car back in the early 2000s?!) 

We talked about Boise, Idaho. The capital city of Idaho and what it means to be a capital city. This led us to a light discussion on government and politics. Yes, I was talking government and politics with my 5-&-3-year-olds.

The GPS led us straight to the zoo. We packed up the stroller and headed to the gates. Once inside we looked at the pricing board and found what age range each of us landed under and how many dollars each of us would have to pay. It was especially fun when we realized that our baby was FREE! After some quick math and money exchange at the front gate, we were on our way! 

We used the park’s map to navigate to each animal enclosure we wanted to see. We read, read, read all about every animal to learn more about what they ate and where they slept, and what they liked. 

After seeing all of the animals we played on the zoo’s playground. Playgrounds are always a great, indirect learning experience, giving children hands-on experiences in physics, science, cause and effect, social-emotional skills, learning empathy, and more. 

After an afternoon at the zoo, we made a stop at the grocery store before we went home. Which came with so, so much learning as well! When kids are involved with grocery shopping trips it teaches them many, many valuable skills such as vocabulary, math, and so much more. 

I knew I wanted our day to remain educational, but what I didn’t realize was how much natural and indirect learning came from our outing. The vast majority of our conversations were natural and simple curiosities my children had. 

“Why is the GPS telling us to turn left?” 

“What is this star thing on the bottom of the zoo map?” 

“Why are the giraffes and zebras in the same enclosure?”

“Why are the penguins all standing together right now?” 

“What happens inside of the capitol building?” 

“Why are some things on a cold shelf in the grocery store, but others aren’t?” 

“How does your credit card pay for our stuff when you put it into the machine?”

Sloth bear, nostrils open.

Just taking time to answer these questions and have discussions, leading to more questions, made the entire day incredibly educational for all of us. Thank you, Google, for helping me figure out that red pandas mostly eat bamboo, but also like to snack on fruits, insects, and lizards. Also, did you know the sloth bear can completely close its nostrils in order to keep out dirt and bugs when they are invading others’ nests searching for food? Neat, huh!

I think more often than not I am caught up in getting through our daily errands and checklists, but dedicating one day a week to answering all of the questions and having the discussions is what our whole family needs. We didn’t have a clipboard of worksheets or checklists on animals to find. There wasn’t anything we were set on learning, we just took the day minute by minute and I went with where their curiosity took them. So you’ll be hearing a lot more about our Field Trip Friday adventures and what we’ve learned that day! The natural learning of our day is always worth it.

Cover Photo by Kevin Bidwell

My Best Field Trip Tips

Field trips season is coming this spring! Nothing causes kids more excitement and teachers more anxiety than a day outside of school in unfamiliar territory. Field trips can be so nerve-wracking because it takes planning, permission slips, parent volunteer sign-ups, and more. 

I spent two months in a 4th-grade classroom during my time student teaching, and during that time we as a 4th-grade team went on SIX different field trips! In my next block of student teaching, I was in a 2nd-grade classroom where we went on two field trips in two months. In my first long-term substitute teaching job after graduation, the first-grade team I was working with brought the kids on a field trip to the aquarium. All within the same school year, I was able to experience TEN field trips. 

Ten field trips in nine months with three different age groups gave me a lot of experience that I am here to share with you now! 

  • Prep the students beforehand- Don’t leave them with uncertainty, walk them through what will happen, how it will happen, and how you expect it to happen. Tell them how to enter the bus, how to sit on the bus, how to handle lunchtime, how to find you if they need you, and more. Set CLEAR expectations and repeat them again and again. 
Exploring and learning about The Great Salt Lake by getting into it!
  • Give your students examples and stories of why your expectations are set the way they are. The first field trip I went on with my 4th-grade class, their teacher told them a story of how she lost a student on a field trip because the student wasn’t following instructions and she wasn’t paying close enough attention. She made them a promise that she would pay extra attention to every single one of them and do her part if they did their part by adhering to expectations. Adding a personal experience helped those students realize just how important paying attention and following procedures really was. 
  • Count your students. Then Count again. And again. Always be counting the students.
  • Use the buddy system. It is used often and is somewhat obvious for teachers, and for good reason, it works! 
Writing in their field trip journals
  • Have your students keep a field trip journal to record their learning. Give them prompts during breaks to write about what they are seeing, learning, and doing.
  • Parents. You most likely have at least one parent in your classroom that is willing to step up and to help you with what you need. Utilize these parents as chaperones, organizers, and more! Use them as often as possible. 
  • Take pictures. If possible, take pictures of your students for parents to see and to show your students later as well. These memories are priceless and everyone will appreciate them later. 
  • HAVE FUN. There is no lie a certain level of stress accompanies any given field trip. But when it comes down to it, you’ve done the planning, you’ve prepped the kids, and now it’s time to enjoy the field trip and watch the students learn and grow in a new environment. 
Handcarts and pioneers are a deep part of Utah’s state history. Field trip at the American West Heritage Center in Wellsville, Utah.
Touring Utah State University’s campus

Field trips can be incredibly rewarding if they are done correctly. Students can learn and grow outside of the classroom and it can give them the hands-on experience they need to understand how the world works around them. Gone are the days of passive learning where we sit in desks and copy notes. Now is the time for active learning and putting understanding into the hands of the students. 

What are your best field trip tips that you would add to this list?