How to be a straight A field trip chaperone

Field TripWhen Colleen Sherman chaperoned her daughter’s first-grade field trip to the Maryland Science Center in Baltimore last spring, she knew that accompanying almost 90 7-year-olds would be an adventure.

“We stood in a hurricane machine, laid on a bed of nails and even unearthed some dinosaur bones,” says Sherman, a mother of three from Annapolis.

Although Sherman has chaperoned almost a dozen field trips in recent years, her goal with each is the same: to make sure the kids have a good time and are engaged in learning but, most importantly, that they stay safe, she says.

“As much as I love field trips, each one has its own unique challenges,” Sherman says. “Kids can get lost or easily distracted, and strangers are everywhere.”

Every year, schools across Maryland take field trips to encourage learning outside the classroom, and chaperones are an essential part of the process.

“Field trips are a great benefit to students across our school system, but they wouldn’t be possible without the parents that make them happen,” says Bob Mosier, Anne Arundel County Public School System spokesperson.

Choosing qualified chaperones helps ensure that field trips go smoothly and safely. It is a process that schools take very seriously.

“The school system runs background checks on every person that attends a field trip,” Mosier says. “Chaperones are charged with leading groups of children, and we need to make sure that we are putting them in the hands of adults that are suitable leaders.”

After all her experience, Sherman understands the importance of the role.

“There are definitely things I am aware of as a chaperone, like doing head counts and not letting a child go to the bathroom alone,” she says. “I know trips like the Science Center or one to a museum are more challenging because there are hundreds of kids in an enclosed space.”

Keeping it safe

There are risks involved with any field trip, but rest assured that schools have scrutinized this as well.

“We have a coordinator in each subject matter who chooses field trips based on their learning value, but we also take into account safety and practical measures,” Mosier says.

The Maryland Science Center has security measures of its own in place to minimize risk for the 100,000 plus children visiting each year — up to 3,000 a day.

“We check in every student with a sticker, and we have strict parent/child ratios that schools must adhere to,” says Chris Cropper, spokesperson for the Maryland Science Center. “We also have a protocol called ‘Code Adam’ should a child ever get lost. ... In 40 years, we’ve never had a negative outcome.”

Click next below for tips for field trip chaperones.

Science Center Field tripTips for field trip chaperones

Chaperoning school field trips can be a rewarding chance to spend time with students outside the classroom, but a huge responsibility accompanies the opportunity. If you plan to chaperone a trip, review the following tips to help make your experience successful.

  • Use a buddy system. Never let a child go anywhere alone, including the restroom. Man the exits of restrooms to be sure everyone who goes in, comes out.
  • Partner with another parent. Two sets of eyes are always better than one, and having another adult with your group comes in handy for bathroom breaks and other detours.
  • Carry a cell phone for emergencies, and make sure you have the teacher’s phone number should your group ever get lost from the majority.
  • Remind your charges to be respectful. Lay ground rules at the start of the trip so kids know you expect their best behavior.
  • Ask questions to engage students in what they are seeing and doing. Help them compare what they are experiencing with what they have learned at school.
  • Check with the teacher about allergies and medication. Children may need medication administered during a field trip. If a child keeps an EpiPen for a severe allergy, make sure you know how to use one.
  • Note your bus number so you return to the same bus at the conclusion of the trip.
  • Wear good walking shoes. It’s important to be able to keep up with kids as they roam, especially in outdoor areas. “Field trips are exhausting,” Sherman says. “You need to be as comfortable as possible.”

By Katie Riley

Photo to right courtesy of the Maryland Science Center.