So you want to run a field trip?
I have been leading field trips for over 30 years, and have had to deal with many situations that have required me to learn new ways of making sure people are comfortable and have a great learning experience with me. We often get caught up in our science and forget the other ‘comfort and safety’ things that can make your trip memorable for your ‘guests’.
Here are my 20 tips and tricks to help with your planning.
- You MUST have visited each site that you will take people to in recent times (like the last three months). Things change – like access, roads, undergrowth, parking.
- You need to ensure you have updated navigation tools – and can navigate without the internet or cell phone reception. Always have a backup navigation system – like a map! Also, try the Maps.me app!
- Make sure you factor in toilet stops throughout the day. Think of all genders and needs. Carry some toilet paper.
- Always carry additional water and snacks for those people who just can’t plan ahead or follow simple instructions.
- Dehydration will cause more sickness than anything else. Remind people to drink. Also, remind them that you have toilet stops all planned. Fear of not having a toilet around makes some folks not drink…causing them to get sick.
- You and your co-leaders must have recent first aid training and be confident you can deal with a medical emergency. All your leaders need to be covered by insurance. Does your organization cover you?
- Carry a first aid kit in EVERY vehicle and have one in your backpack on every hike.
- Know each person’s medical issues. Carry a summary of people’s medical forms with you at all times.
- Feed people – make sure you plan for food and rest stops.
- Check the weather daily – and have a plan to avoid the worse conditions.
- Know the tides if you are near the ocean.
- Tell people each night what they will need the next day. Don’t make them guess.
- Have a way to communicate between vehicles. Cheap walkie-talkies are a good backup for cell phones when out of range. Plan meet up stops (next gas station, next park etc) when traveling longer distances.
- If you have an early morning start, have a period of ‘quiet time’ in the vans so those who need more sleep can catch up to the rest of the group.
- Count the number of people you have before leaving each stop. Don’t leave people behind.
- Plan in some rest times – an earlier finish on a mid-trip day can make a huge difference to the group for the second part of the trip.
- Prepare people for the expected weather conditions and what clothing is most suitable for the trip.
- Have a 3 meter/yard rule – no one goes closer to any cliff/rockwall etc than 3 meters/yards. No exceptions.
- Leave NOTHING to chance. Plan out every stop, travel time between stops, vans, accommodation, meals, etc.
- Have fun and be passionate about showing people your science. Passion rubs off!
I am sure you will find and think of more – as each group has different needs. I’d love to see other tips shared in the comments below.
But as a dear friend says a lot – get outside!