Commentary: Tips for a good summer field trip

As I was saying about field trips, it takes knowing every child, but it also takes a fabulous staff. Planning field trips takes a lot of thought, and carrying them through takes a lot of energy and a lot of counting and managing.

It has to begin with the word possibilities, and all the teachers have to be equally involved. The anatomy of a field trip begins with the idea: what can we, as a group, do for and with the children that will be fun, educational, and doable and have the kind of kiddy attraction that will keep children wanting to do more?

Where can we go that is not too far, but far enough so the children get the idea that they are really traveling. Years ago, our longest field trips were an hour by bus. We toured St. Meinrad, Lincoln, New Harmony, and Ellis Park, and when we wanted to add to those places, we tried places just a little further out like Garden of the Gods, Pounds Hollow Lake and then Mammoth Cave for a whopping 6 hours.

It's always worth it because the children bond with one another and with teachers on these long trips and they learn. They travel and they become a real cohesive group with memories they can share during the winter months. Over the years we've been to Spring Mill Park, Louisville Zoo, and the St. Louis Zoo. This year we are trying the Nashville Zoo. Unfortunately, Indianapolis is too far and so are some of the other places we've thought about.

Last week we went to New Harmony. It's not exactly Kids World, but it does have some areas of interest that children can relate to. The point in traveling in summer is to get away from parent friendly, and get into child friendly. We toured three things they really liked: the Roofless Church, the Dark Garden and the Maze. They couldn't have cared less about the candle making, the bread baking or the butter churning. So what does that tell you for the next time? Stick to the quiet earthy places that say real and unusual.

We spent exactly 15 minutes at each event. That was not long enough to cause children to become bored. Keeping children moving is the name of the game. Restless sitting is a thing children despise. They always seem to get themselves into trouble, so the whole idea is to keep moving.

That means teachers have to keep moving as well. Energetic teachers who want to be out, who want to work on traveling with the kids make the trip work. Choosing teachers who are in good physical condition, can manage the noise and the heat with spirit and laughter, who love going is an absolute must.

And parents are always welcome to come as well. We encourage it. It's a great way for parents to travel over the summer with their own children and make summer special.

Every trip we plan to eat near a giant playground so the kids could run off steam. A playground is a must for very small children during any field trip. We always ask in advance so that kids can play right after lunch. Kids need to move. When they are penned up on a bus any length of time, they need to run, so always plan to have a playground near by.

Lunch for us is a much practiced ordeal that takes an hour to prepare every field trip morning. Years ago we decided that a choice of lunches worked best. Kids are hungry if they are going and running, and the best lunch offers children choices. Finding the right bread is often difficult because not all bread tastes good.

At the same time, we've found that pre-made sandwiches are yucky. We've tried hamburger buns, hot dog buns, regular sandwich bread and sliced French bread, rolls, buns, biscuits and crackers, and the response is the same: do I have to eat this? When they are told yes, the trip is spoiled, when they are told no, they are hungry and the trip is spoiled, so we've searched and searched and finally came up with flour tortillas.

We serve, peanut butter and or jelly or honey and or walnuts; ham, bologna, turkey and or cheese; plain cheese, tuna salad, egg salad, crab salad, and chicken salad on a folded tortilla and ninety percent of the children eat at least two sandwiches because they can choose and the wraps are made to a child's personal liking right on the spot.

All these salads are made at school on the day of the picnic and we have special freezer bowls that allow us to keep it all cool. In addition we take fruit like apples, watermelon and raisins, vegetables and dip, chips and our famous homemade chocolate chip cookies, milk and water.

Too much trouble? Not for those you love, and that's the whole point.