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Organising school trips to local or national adventure destinations

Part One

There will come a time in the life of every teacher when he or she is called upon to organise an education excursion for a group of students.

Visiting a foreign country must be planned with a precision of a military campaign, but even visiting one of the many adventure or outdoor education camps within South Africa requires superior organisational skills. When it comes to the safety and well-being of children, there is no detail too small to consider, and thorough preparation will mean a safe and enjoyable trip for everyone concerned. In this article, Independent Education supplies some guidelines for teachers planning a trip requiring ‘overnighting’ within our country’s borders.

First things first

It may be that the excursion is sport-related, it may be part of the school’s larger end-of-year ‘edutainment’ programme, or it may be connected to a specific module of study. Whatever the case, plan your trip as far in advance as possible, ideally nine to twelve months ahead.

Use a recommended destination

Do you want to visit a centre or location close to home, to keep transport costs to a minimum? Or would you like pupils to venture farther afield and discover new areas of the country? Are you happy to travel in mid-winter when pupils may be vulnerable to colds and sniffles, or in the heat of summer? It all depends on your educational aims, and it would be wise to sit down with your head of department or principal to hear their thoughts and recommendations.

Once you’ve decided on the general premise, there are many ways to research providers, like directory websites, contacting trip providers direct, or recommendations from other teachers. In fact, if your school embarks on such ventures regularly, there may be a file compiled by other thoughtful educators to help you plan the next adventure.

Choose your destination carefully

Check before booking that your chosen provider is registered with all relevant organisations and authorities, and try to obtain testimonials from other schools that may have visited the same place. In general terms, you are looking for a destination where pupils can move around safely while participating in a number of exciting activities. It is wise to also consider the number of children each destination can accommodate – you don’t want to have to leave anyone behind.

People can make all the difference to the success of your school visit. You may be the teacher-in-charge, but having a reliable colleague or two on the journey makes sense, and may in fact be mandatory at your school. When it comes to adults at your chosen camp, choose somewhere with staff teams that you feel competent about dealing with and working with during your trip. Staff and instructors at your chosen centre should be fully trained in any activities they are delivering, especially for adventure activities and sports – and, moreover, should be qualified to work competently with young people. This ensures a high level of  instruction and also, more importantly, a regard for health and safety practices.

You may not be able to undertake a reconnaissance mission to the destination, but even a series of telephone calls or e-mail conversations can put your heart at ease should you need to know, for example, if it can accommodate your students’ dietary needs, offers separate quarters and amenities for staff and students, or for boys and girls, or whether the camp is suitable for younger children who may never have slept away from home before. Find out whether the camp has secure lock-up facilities in which to store cell phones or other valuables during the day, and whether its overall security is up to par.

Including the parents Once all the basic elements of your trip are decided, it’s time to introduce it to parents and students. A great way of doing this is via an initial letter home, followed up by a parent’s evening, where the proposed trip can be presented and any questions answered and objections overcome. If you don’t know the answers to questions, make careful notes, do a thorough follow-up, and remember not to make promises you can’t keep. You’re taking precious cargo out of school and away from their families, and that’s a weighty responsibility.

Category: Winter 2012

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