Should Schools Take Elementary Kids on All-Day Outdoor Field Trip–in February?

by Nindo Mom on January 28, 2012

When, at the beginning of the school year, I heard that my child’s class would be attending an all-day outdoor field trip, it sounded like it could be a lot of fun. But then I  found out the field trip would be held in FEBRUARY–one of the coldest months of the year here on the East Coast. From 6:45 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., my fifth grader’s entire class would be outdoors.

Staying outdoors for 12 straight hours isn’t something I’d want for an adult or child. And it’s worse when it’s a class trip where the needs of each and every student can’t feasibly be met.

My position: it’s extremely unwise–not to mention, inconsiderate of the needs of the children–for an elementary school to schedule an all-day outdoor field trip in the dead of winter.  This field trip could have easily be planned for the spring or fall when outdoor temperatures are more moderate, eliminating a lot of possible suffering–perhaps even injury–of the children.

I contacted the school principal to voice my concerns. His response was to explain how he did some checking on the Internet, and that only one outdoor educational program he found was actually stopping services for the winter. He also explained how the educators in charge of running the program for the day of the field trip had the flexibility to adjust their lesson plan.

The principal’s explanation does nothing to alleviate my concerns.  I don’t care if other outdoor educational programs happen during the winter, as they may operate under different conditions. (They may be for older children; they may be held for a shorter duration; they may not be part of a public school program; parents may be required to attend; etc.) As for the staff having the flexibility to adjust the lesson plan, this in no way means that the needs of all the kids will be met: with 30 kids, it’s impossible to meet needs at the same time. We can easily imagine that some kids will be dreadfully cold before the instructor decides it’s time to take an indoor break.

It is interesting to note that the school principal had to research the situation on the Internet before responding to my concerns. This in itself tells me he never questioned it before I did, which has disappointing implications on his commitment to his school’s students.

So what are my options? Complain to the Board of Education, or keep my child home for the day. The principal told me that, parent to parent, he’d completely understand my taking the second option. Which again makes me question why HE’S not asking more questions about the intelligence of holding a 12-hour outdoor field trip for kids so young.

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