Early Childhood Education
Preschool Guidance & Materials
Planning Field Trips for Preschoolers
Preschool programs can be enriched through the inclusion of carefully planned field trips. First hand experience can provide children with information and a level of understanding that adds elements to their play, enriches vocabulary and enhances their overall learning.
The age and developmental level of preschool children must always be taken into consideration. Many trips that would be educational for older children are simply too overwhelming for younger children (i.e. trips that require long bus rides of over forty minutes or require children to be out of the center for the entire day) or that may not be safe for younger children (i.e. trips where careful supervision is difficult). Particular needs of children in the group must also be considered when choosing and planning a trip. The trip should be appropriate for all children in the class and be accessible for children with special needs. Special arrangements that can be made to ensure that all children are included should be researched and planned ahead of time.
For children to gain the greatest benefit, field trips should not only be thoughtfully chosen, but should also relate to the New Jersey Preschool Teaching and Learning Expectations: Standards of Quality, the district’s DOE approved comprehensive curriculum and the children’s interests. Meaningful field trips are integrated with a current study, theme or classroom project. If children are interested in farm animals, a trip to a real farm could greatly enhance children’s understanding. If children have not had any exposure to farm animals, the trip would provide concrete experiences that the teacher will be able to build upon.
First field trips should be to places that are familiar in some way to young children. Many of the best trips build on children’s interests and the curriculum by revolving around the immediate, familiar community. Trips to local grocery stores, libraries, flower shops etc. can enhance relationships between family members, the school and the community and can often be planned at little or no cost. Field experiences can also take place in-class or in-school by inviting guests and setting up an area of the room with books, props and materials relevant to the content.
Effective teachers will use recommended best practices by introducing a field trip in advance and providing opportunities for the children to apply new concepts and information in the days after the trip. The teacher may use a storybook and props to set the stage for the trip. She/he will discuss the trip with the children and chart their predictions of what they might see and/or questions they might ask.
On the day of the trip, the adults will actively engage the children by discussing the sights, people etc. (context) and by encouraging the children to explore, question and think about their experience (content). Adults may take photographs to record the day and to create a book with the children. The teacher may return to the class chart the day of or the day following the trip so that children can compare their predictions and questions with their actual findings. Small group and center activities can be planned to extend children’s learning. Props or materials can be added to dramatic play that will deepen children’s understandings. The opportunity for developing new vocabulary will be stronger as children add more roles to their play.
Field Trip Approval:
Districts have an obligation to ensure that all field trips are safe, age appropriate and planned to enhance the curriculum:
- Districts must have a clear policy in place to ensure that all field trips, whether planned by a private provider or an in-district school, go through a central district and budgetary approval process.
- This policy should also include the stipulation that parent chaperones are not to be charged for field trips.
- Policies regarding procedures should be the same for both in-district classes and private providers.
- District administrators and community provider directors should require teachers to fill out a field trip form that designates the purpose of the field trip and its relationship to the New Jersey Preschool Teaching and Learning Expectations: Standards of Quality.
- Policies and forms for securing transportation should be followed. Children should never be transported in cars owned by private individuals.
Field Trip Preparations:
In addition to preparing for the learning experience, the teacher should prepare the children for each trip:
- All sites for field trips should be visited by a staff member prior to scheduling the trip for children.
- Safety precautions, the buddy system, positive behavioral expectations and emergency procedures with children and adults should be reviewed and rehearsed as necessary.
- The teacher should assess and determine if children and other adults are adequately prepared to take field trips. Readiness on the part of all responsible adults is critical to the safety of the children.
- The staff should prepare identification tags for all children that include the name of the school/center and phone number. Caution should be used in placing children’s names on tags as this may result in alerting strangers to the individual child’s name. If necessary, name tags might be worn inside shirts or tops. Some schools/centers have shirts printed with their logo, name and address so that children and staff will easily be identified.
- The teacher should explain the planned field trip to parents and receive permission slips for each child for each trip.
- The teacher must have children and parents’ names, telephone numbers and school/emergency telephone numbers with them at all times. An accurate list of children in attendance on the day of the trip must be supplied. A copy should be also left at the school/center.
- The teacher should decide how children will be grouped with adults. The adult chaperones must have lists of the children in their care with the telephone number of the school/center.
- A place for regrouping and checkpoints should be identified at each trip site.
- Adult supervision of all children at all times is essential. Children must never be left alone or sent ahead of the group for any reason. The adult/child ratios recommended for trips are 1:3 for three year olds and 1:4 for four year olds.
- A designated staff person for each group should have the responsibility of carrying a first aid kit, money and needed supplies. Required medications, allergy concerns and nutritional needs must be considered.
- Safe and healthy foods should be provided that follow the food service guidelines. Staff should be aware of any steps necessary for safe handling of food. Whenever possible, adults who are responsible for carrying items should not be directly responsible for a group of children.
Recommended Field Trips:
Many districts have developed lists of recommended field trips. Attached to this memo you will find some examples of common field trips. Please note that this list encompasses trips that are generally considered appropriate for preschool children. For example, not every farm or theatre production will be an ideal site for a class trip. Discretion and common sense must always be used when determining if a field trip is safe and has educational value. A follow-up evaluation of the value of the trip and any pertinent highlights or significant features should be noted for future reference.
Field Trip Examples
Small Local Airport/ Train Station
Animal Shelter/Pet Shop
Children’s theatre production
Fruit/Vegetable Store/Grocery Store
Nature walks – along the beach, in nearby parks or gardens