Chaperoning the Kids’ School Fields Trips

Three weeks ago, right before my son’s thirteenth birthday, I wrote about my kids becoming more independent. Typically, as kids become more independent, they want their parents less involved in their lives. And that is normal. But there is one area that they still like for me to be involved – school field trips.

Actually, when my son entered middle school I kind of thought school field trips were over. It is one thing for the elementary to take 100 students on a trip but at the middle school, there are roughly 400 kids per grade. This year, for the first time in six years, Jase’s middle school social studies teacher decided to take the kids on a field trip to the Holocaust Museum.

To do it, they had to split the grade into two groups with each going on a different day. They also need 16-20 chaperones per group. Jase asked me if I would go. (Yeah!) So, I volunteered.

I was a little concerned because on this field trip, the school was allowing the parents to ride the bus. Hmmm…stuck on the bus with 50 sixth graders? Sounds bad but turned out to be great as we have a good bunch of kiddos on our bus.

There were four of us watching our bus of 50 kids. We stuck with them through the rotations at the Holocaust museum. The best part was being able to listen to a Holocaust survivor recount what happened to her and her family. It had a big impact on the students.

Obviously, the sixth-grade field trip didn’t scar me or anything as I then volunteered to chaperone the sixth-grade orchestra’s trip to Six Flags Fiesta Texas. This time it was only 30 students with four chaperones. The students competed in the Music Across Texas competition and then got to enjoy the amusement park. It was hot and tiring but again, it was good bunch of kids and I was glad I went.

As for Lexie, the fourth grade for the past four years has made a trip to Austin (about an hour away from San Antonio) to visit the capitol and the Bob Bullock museum. She was supposed to go at the end of March but due to some random package bombings happening in Austin at the time, the school postponed the trip. The only time they could fit it back into the schedule was today, three days before the end of school.

This was a fun field trip when I went on it with Jase and his classmates. Since the field trip leaves at 8 am and doesn’t return until 5 pm (well after school gets out) they cannot use school buses and rent plush charter buses for the kids. The parents still must drive themselves.

The students take two different tours at the capitol – one showing the history of Texas and one of the actual capitol building. Then they will eat a picnic lunch on the capitol grounds. Afterwards, they walk a few blocks to the Bob Bullock Texas State History museum.

I am sure this will be just as much of a fun time as when I went with Jase. And thankfully, Lexie definitely is glad that I am with her on this trip.

Chaperoning school field trips

Ever since Jase started preschool, I have always attended his field trips except for one when he was 5 in the Gift of Time program (a special preschool class for kids who are 5 but not ready for kindergarten). Going on field trips and helping out in their classrooms and school is one of the reasons I chose to be a stay-at-home mom.

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Jase at a pizza place during a field trip for his 4-year-old preschool class.

Chaperoning a trip obviously means different things from preschool to elementary. In preschool, parents drove up to four students to the field trip location. (Two parents per vehicle.) Of course because the kids are young (4 or 5 years old), there was monitoring and directing of the students. It gets easier when they are in elementary school.

I don’t know how other elementary schools do their field trips, but our school has always welcomed as many parent chaperons as there are parents willing to volunteer. This means that for the younger grades – kindergarten and first grade – there is typically one adult for every two students.

In kindergarten, they always go to the farm. It is actually a Christmas tree farm, but it does have goats, chickens and a donkey. There are some learning areas and a hay ride around the Christmas tree fields. And best of all they have a great play area for the kids to tire themselves out after the picnic lunch.

Lexie at the San Antonio Zoo on her first grade field trip.

Lexie at the San Antonio Zoo on her first grade field trip.

For first grade, the trip is always to the San Antonio Zoo. Here they just let the parents and kids wander and tour on their own. The only requirements are not to buy anything from the gift shop and to meet back up at the front when it is time to get on the bus. With Jase’s class, I was assigned to walk around with another dad and his son. With Lexie’s class, I walked around with her and her friend whose mom couldn’t come.

Lexie making a terrarium at the Botanical Gardens on her second grade field trip.

Lexie making a terrarium at the Botanical Gardens on her second grade field trip.

This year’s second grade field trip for Lexie was the botanical gardens. While a lot of the day was spent in individual touring groups (it was me, a special-education teacher and four kids), we began the day with a lesson which included each student building their own terrarium.

In second grade, Jase went to the Witte Museum. There was an educational lesson followed by self-guided tours. Again, I was paired off with another mom and four students. Man it was harder to keep track of these boys (not to mention everyone from our school was wearing the same school shirt.)

Jase on the glass-bottom boat on his third grade field trip to The Meadows Center in San Marcos.

Jase on the glass-bottom boat on his third grade field trip to The Meadows Center in San Marcos.

Jase’s third-grade field trip by far was the most eventful. We went to the Meadows Center at Spring Lake in San Marcos (about a 45-minute drive north of San Antonio). They had six stations set up for the kids to rotate through. We made it through three stations before the storms hit. In fact, we were on the glass-bottom boat when the rain began to pour. We actually had been tracking the storm all morning and had been hoping it would hold off. The field trip was called off. Those without parents ate lunch on the bus and then went back to school. Jase and I ran for the car, got soaked and then went to McDonalds for lunch.

And this leads us up to last week’s chaperoned trip for Jase’s fourth-grade class. All five fourth-grade classes boarded charter buses and headed to the state capitol building in Austin, TX. The parent chaperons followed in their own vehicles. (Chaperons never get to ride on the buses here.)

Jase during the Vistor's Center tour at the State Capitol in Austin.

Jase during the Vistor’s Center tour at the State Capitol in Austin.

It was full day. We went to a museum, ate lunch on the capitol lawn and then toured the capitol. The students enjoyed pizza before getting on the buses to return to school. Since the drive is about an hour and half each way, this field trip did go longer than the school day. The kids left at 8 am and didn’t return until 5 p.m. – about 2 1/2 hours after school was released. The kids had a blast, and Lexie is hoping they have this field trip in two years when she is in fourth grade. (It is a new field trip. This was only the second year.)

No matter where we go or how many students I am asked to supervise, I love going on these trips with my kids. And I know they love that I am able to go with them too.