I've learned a few tips and tricks along the way to avoid some of the fiascoes (I'm quite sure that I could write a very funny booked called "Fieldtrip Fiascoes") that I've experienced over the years. I thought I'd share my Top 3 Fiascoes and share some tips with you to have some Field Trip Fun and avoid the dreaded Field Trip Fiasco!
Top Three Field Trip Fiascoes
3. Bus Breakdown - while returning from a fantastic ski trip at a resort about 5 hours away, our bus broke down. Actually... the engine blew up! We blew a piston rod and left a trail of engine parts and oil on the highway behind us. We knew there was something wrong when the bus filled with smoke and we came to a grinding halt in the middle of the highway. So after a quick evacuation I found myself on the side of a very busy and dangerous mountain highway with 24 high-school students. Long story short... we had a replacement bus in just under two hours.
TIP - Expect the unexpected and be prepared for anything! This is a hard one to prepare for... but a good lesson for us about the importance of students wearing appropriate footwear and clothing on the bus (one student was in flip flops and it was very cold and we could have easily been pulled over in snow). Several students didn't have jackets readily accessible and had the bus been really damaged they might not have been able to access them in the storage compartments down below.
2. Blocked Bowel - Despite giving all of the students the "Importance of Eating Fruit & Fibre On A School Trip Talk" someone still managed to have a blocked bowel on a trip to Europe. The student was also too embarrassed initially to properly explain the issue... so it took us a two days to realize that the situation was serious. Nothing like a trip to a French hospital to reinforce the importance of fiber in one's diet and the importance of sharing personal and embarrassing information with your teachers while in a foreign country.
TIP - Often when we're in a new country students don't or can't eat their regular diet and it can be hard to find fresh fruit and veggies. To make things a little easier, I always bring granola bars, fruit leather and fibre bars. They're easy and light to pack and do wonders at keeping everything "moving through your system". I really stress to the students the importance of eating healthy food, drinking water and being honest about their medical symptoms... caught early enough, we probably could have avoided a trip to the hospital.
3. France Fiasco - After spending two great days in Paris with 30 high-school students seeing the beautiful sights, my worst fears came true when we "lost" a student on the way back to our hotel. It was a Friday night and we were near the Paris Opera house. Just before we jumped on the metro we did one last count of all the students.... and we were missing one!! I tried my best not to panic... but I'm not going to lie... inside I was a mess! Luckily we had a very good plan in place, the student in question did exactly what he was told to do if he got separated from our group, and we managed to find him relatively quickly.
TIP - Develop an easy plan to reconnect with students if they get separated from your group. Review the procedure... often! I always print out and laminate an EMERGENCY CONTACT CARD for all the students on the trip and insist that they go in their wallets. On the card I list the names, phone numbers and address of all the hotels that we'll be staying at in each city, an emergency teacher contact cell number, and the long distance prefix if one is needed to phone home.
Here's a copy of the card I give students for short / local field trips. I usually photocopy the wallet cards on a really bright paper (hot pink is fabulous!) so that it's easy to spot in their wallets.
Here is the field trip card I give students for a longer / overnight field trip. I always laminate this and put it on bright paper.