When it comes to student travel how young is too young? Of course as soon as children enter school they begin taking field trips to local museums, but what about extended group trips? I was recently reading a travel magazine, and came across an article by David Wilkening that addressed middle school students taking such trips. Now perhaps due to the fact that most adults think back to middle school and are immediately confronted with memories of bad clothing, bullies, and yelling, “you just don’t understand me!” to their parents, this age group sometimes gets a bad rap. The article points out, however, that middle school students are at an age where they learn much better when they experience things outside the classroom. Here are some of the articles main points in regards to planning middle school student tours.
Start planning early. According to the article, this is a good idea for a number of reasons. Many trips take about a year to plan, but aside from that, the parents usually like to have as much information as possible. Parents will probably be a little cautious in letting their student go on an extended trip if they aren’t well informed themselves. Planning ahead also allows parents to help with the process and will likely alleviate some of the load. Arranging an informational session that addresses concerns parents may have and allows them to ask questions may also be helpful. Early planning is often a key in getting the students excited about the trip. My mom worked with middle school students in her music program for a while, and put it like this: “With five years olds I can walk into the room and hand them a set of jingle bells, and they immediately love me. I walk into a room full of middle schoolers, stand on my head, and spit nickels and they look at me and say, ‘so?’ It may take a year or so to get kids excited about a trip, but it will provide a better learning environment, and the trip can even be used as incentive for good behavior.
Pick good chaperones. Middle school trips usually require a greater number of chaperones to be successful; this article advises one chaperone for every 8 students. Making sure the chaperones are excited about the trip is a must; the more enthusiastic the chaperones, the more excited the students will be. Choosing parental chaperones is another way to get parents involved. Other parents are also more likely to feel at ease when they know their children are supervised by an adequate number of chaperones.
Keep the schedule busy. A busy schedule is usually a good idea at this age. A full schedule with little free time both provides students opportunities to engage in more activities and leaves less time for arguments.
These are a few tips that I found helpful and interesting. The article emphasizes organization when planning everything from destinations and activities to fundraising to room placement. One thing is certain though, and that is that middle school trips can be enormously beneficial, and should never be ruled out. Consider taking a middle school class on a trip and you are bound to see the benefits that taking education outside of the classroom can have on students.