Quick and Dirty Field Trip Planning

5 min


The danger in field trip planning is getting carried away, trying to make it ‘the best field trip EVER’.

Uh-uh. ‘Quick-and-Dirty’ is the way to go.

First, my credentials. I have planned many field trips and never once permanently lost a student at the top of the Sears Tower.

Why a field trip?

  • It expands students’ horizons.
  • If you finagle it right, it could get you out of lunch duty.

Follow these few essential steps:

Step 1: Are You Mellow Enough for a Field Trip?

Check the Teacher’s Guide to Field Trips and Valium Dosage by the currently indisposed Irma Mellow. An excerpt:

Always keep the students’ perspective in mind. Remember, you are not a child. If you were, you would still have all that glorious time to do something else with your life.”

Take this quiz:

1. When planning a field trip, I _________.

   a) take a class survey on student interests.

   b) choose a destination that supports the curriculum.

   c) check how many sick days I have left.

2. An example of a fun, educational field trip is _________.

   a) a hands-on workshop on fossils at the natural history museum.

   b) a play incorporating the literary elements studied in class.

   c) a trip to the local mall, where students ‘study’ the architectural geometry, develop social skills talking to strangers and harassing toddlers in the Anarchy Castle play pit, meeting you in Starbucks when finished or arrested.

3. Students will gain the most value from a field trip if ___________.

   a) they have worksheet packets which address visual, auditory, tactile and kinesthetic learning styles.

   b) they have background information on the field-trip site.

   c) they are all on the return bus.

The correct answers to all of the above are, of course, ‘c’. As if you didn’t know!

Step 2: Transportation Essentials. Remember to take:

  1. Directions and maps for bus drivers
  2. Seating charts
  3. A big bag of sawdust (barf dust). Make that two.

Step 3: Can’t Get Enough of Your Kids!

Here’s where you’ll want to spend more time, your goal being to cover your butts so completely, parents will not have a reason to gripe. Ha, ha! As if!

A sample letter would go something like this:

Dear Parent/Guardian/Significant Other/Life Partner/Current Hot and/or Cold Running Boyfriend/Girlfriend:

On Friday, May 18, Pandemonium Middle School (Go PMS!) will be taking a sixteen-hour field trip to visit the Lincoln Depot Replica and Perfunctory Plaque where, in 1861, Abraham Lincoln left Springfield, Illinois for Washington DC.

This site, rebuilt since the time of Lincoln due to a fire, probably caused by some ne’re-do-well who didn’t pay attention to where he stuck his meerschaum, consists of an empty, dinky two-room building, complete with replica wooden benches and a replica pot-bellied stove. A video will teach them that Lincoln was President. 

Out front is the Perfunctory Plaque which displays Lincoln’s famous Farewell Address, made up on the spot when so many people showed up to give him a presidential heave-ho.

Once our tour of the Depot Replica and Perfunctory Plaque is complete, we’ll stop about a mile out of town for dinner at the Food Fight Cafetorium, a broken-down restaurant that would have been closed by the health department long ago, except that local restauranteurs chip in annually to keep it open. Think about it.

Before re-boarding busses, students will visit the washroom to tend to any bodily functions that may have been finessed by the dinner.

We will arrive back at PMS at approximately 10 p.m., which is six hours and forty minutes outside the union contract. Please pick up your child promptly, as the teachers have a 10:15 p.m. reservation at Whoop-De-Doo’s down the street.

The cost of the trip will be $95.14, or free if you can come up with an excuse—lame or creative–why you can’t pay.

Please sign this form and return asap. If you have questions, or think this is a dumb field trip, feel free to call the principal who nixed our first idea to take in a Cubs game.


The Seventh Grade Black-and-Blue Team

Step 4: The Preparation of the Students

Of course, the point of the trip is to broaden students’ horizons. And to rack up some comp time so you can grab the Cubs-Brewers game next Friday.

Worksheet packets are the pedagogical equivalent of IRS Tax Return forms. Packets should weigh about two pounds and make them worth a bazillion points, due the moment they step off the bus at the end of the trip. Specify points off for wiggly writing. A sample packet for a trip to see the Lincoln Depot Replica and Perfunctory Plaque might look something like this:



On this trip, you will learn many exciting things. For example, Abraham Lincoln had to wait for the train, just like everybody else. Only he couldn’t just sit and check his email, because everybody in Springfield showed up in the rain to respectfully doff their hats to him.

He had to cook up something fast to respond to all that doffing, so he hatched the Farewell Address right there on the spot, which is printed on the Perfunctory Plaque in front of the Depot.

You will spend three hours with the Plaque, memorizing it for the test.

Inside the Lincoln Depot Replica are separate waiting rooms: one for the men and their dogs, where you will see the bogus pot-bellied stove where the men would talk about the price of cow manure and if there was any guy in the room who hadn’t had Victoria Broadbaum, and smoke, or just grab some Zs while they warmed their privates.

The other, bare-bones side of the waiting room was for the women and kids, where they would shiver, hold their bladders and wipe kids’ runny noses until the train came.

Worksheet Math Component

1. If we leave Pandemonium at 6 a.m., traveling toward Springfield at an average rate of 35 miles per hour, how long will it take little Dweezel to dump his Yoo-Hoo on the teacher?

2. If Lincoln’s train left Springfield for Washington DC at 9:04 a.m. on February 11, 1861, traveling at a rate of 50 miles per hour, and another train left Washington DC at 7:18 on the same day, traveling at a rate of 45 miles per hour, and both engineers had pay cuts and marital troubles, how long would it take before one of the engineers said, “The hell with it” and parked his train at the Trackside Bar?

Science Component

What are the three symptoms of botulism poisoning? (Don’t ask why.)

Language Arts Component

Correct the grammar and spelling mistakes in the following sentences:

1. Teachers should get combat pay for planning field trips.

2. I will not tell my parents about the dirty words in the movie on the bus.

Extra Credit for Strong Auditory Learners

Have your seatmate sing you a song about the Underground Railroad, which was a very popular way to pass secret directions during Lincoln’s time. Something like “Follow the Drinking Gourd,” which sounded like a spiritual, but actually was a secret message among those on the

Railroad, meaning ‘the guy in front of you’.

Step 5: The End

After four hours of listening to ’99 Bottles of Jolt on the wall,’ and just as you are praying for the sweet release of death, you arrive back at the school, to a parking lot of 648 mini-vans jockeying for position so as to not get trapped behind a bus or squad car.

As the students exit the bus, collect the packets and locate the nearest dumpster.

At this point, the students will do anything you ask, as they are painfully wedged between parents, who want to get home before Colbert starts his monologue, and teachers who are smiling, grinding their teeth and e-ordering appetizer platters.

So there you have it. Give it a try! The worst that could happen is you permanently lose a kid at the top of the Sears Tower.

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