Community based instruction is a hot topic right now, and so many teachers that I have talked to have told me that their schools do not have field trips. This is a HUGE ISSUE for your students, and YOU can convince administration by planning ahead and advocating for your students! First things first, How did I get my school to approve field trips? This is THE NUMBER ONE QUESTION that gets emailed and messaged to me! In my first school (collaborative setting), field trips were a given, they understood the importance, and gave us what we needed to make them work (a LITTLE bit of money, transportation, and weekly trips). At my new school (public), field trips at the elementary level were not a given. I knew I had to make this happen, but I had to get all my ducks in a row FIRST. Do not just go down and ask your principal without data, plans, and goals for your students. PREP first.
I waited until half way through the school year to collect what I needed to make this work. I created my field trip units, talked with parents at meetings about what their kids NEED when in the community, created goals and data sheets for each student, gathered a bunch of blog posts on community based instruction for special education classrooms, and explained how I could make it work in OUR community.
I did my research first. I knew the middle school used a community van that the teachers drove. I knew there was a schedule for the van we would have to fit into. I knew there was probably NO money for the trips in the budget. I knew what to expect for questions from administration and had all my answers ready. I was ready to appear CLEAR, and thoughtfully planned.For me, I knew my parents WANTED the trips. They were willing to spend 5-10 dollars a week to support our trips.(make sure to watch the video at the end to find out how other teachers raised money and got CREATIVE). So funding wasn’t too hard. We occasionally would get funding for our grocery or lowes trip and even had our principal join us on a few trips to watch the amazing happen!
Another GREAT solution to no funding is scavenger hunts. We don’t HAVE to SPEND MONEY on a community trip. You can visit the grocery store, CVS, bank, etc…. and use scavenger hunts to drive your instruction (many are included in my community units!)
The trips aren’t just for the kids, they are for the COMMUNITY, too. What better was to raise acceptance than to bring your kids out in the community to learn. Almost always, the community helpers are GREAT with my kids. When they are not, I consider it an eye opening learning opportunity for them.When at a cash register or ordering food, remind the worker to be patient, look at the student for replies, not at you (this one drives me nuts, but is a learning opportunity for the worker too & hopefully they won’t forget it next time).
I also make a lot of phone calls to explain that we will be coming to a certain location for a trip, I tell them what skills we are working on and ask what time is best for them to be patient and able to focus a little extra attention on us. The community responds BEAUTIFULLY to this, and often will offer discounts or let us come for free. These phone calls are so worth it to build the relationships. I love finding friendly places we can visit again and again!So, you did it! You got your field trips approved. Now you have to prep your students, you can’t just bring them to the community cold turkey! For our first trip of the year, we ALWAYS do the grocery store. It is QUICK, it’s EASY and grocery stores are usually the most familiar trip to students.
I also use the binders/ file folders from my Grocery Store Field Trip companion to practice identifying grocery store items, stocking shelves, getting familiar with vocabulary and just prepping for the trip!For a successful field trip, I MUST HAVE VISUALS. My visuals ring is a life saver in the community! You can read more about how I use these visuals, here.
And the visuals and task analysis that come with my community companion sets are great for specific trips that need a lot of direction & for when you want to limit verbal cues to increase independence!
Have you blabbed with us? The Let’s Talk Sped blab group was so excited to talk about how we all organize, prep, and successfully get our community trips approved! You got teachers from ALL levels here (k to high school!) Make sure to check it out for more ideas! & join us every thursday at 8 at @LetsTalk_SPED!