Remember the excitement you felt when it was a field trip day at school? How thrilling it was to take a break from your usual routine, get on a yellow bus (well, maybe not that part), and venture to a nature center, art museum, or theater? Field trips aren’t just fun—hands-on learning enables kids to deepen the lessons they’ve learned in the classroom.
It’s no different for Girl Scouts! In fact, it’s one of the three processes that shape the Girl Scout Leadership Experience. No matter the badge or Journey your girls are working on, there’s probably an outing that will help them strengthen those skills. Troops who regularly go on field trips also have a better overall Girl Scouting experience than those that don’t. Every girl deserves the chance to explore and broaden her horizons. Use our step-by-step guide to plan a field trip, and then get out there—the world is your oyster!
Step 1: Who’s Ready?
Any time you leave your regular troop meeting space, regardless of distance, it’s considered travel. And, like everything in Girl Scouts, you should keep progression in mind. Use the Trip and Travel Progression Chart to assess what your girls are ready for and tailor the field trip to the least-experienced girl.
Step 2: Decide on the Where and Why
Now onto the best part of the planning process—deciding where to go! Girls of all program grade levels should play a part in the planning process, so this step is a great opportunity to involve even the youngest girls.
One way you can do this: Make a list of badges and Journeys your troop plans to work on or have already earned that year. Divide girls into separate groups and assign each group a badge or Journey. Have them brainstorm potential field trips that relate to those badges by asking, “Who can teach us more about this topic?” and “Where can we go to see these skills in action?”
Once your troop has a list of places, have girls vote on where to go. (Psst—if you and your troop have trouble coming up with possibilities, Girl Scouts River Valleys’ activity plans for Daisies, Brownies, Juniors, and Cadettes include field trip ideas. The field trip directory is also a great resource.) Keep in mind that all activities should deliver fun with purpose—if you’re not sure if they do, assess whether the trip will help your troop will reach any of the five program outcomes.
Step 3: How and How Much?
When you’ve reached a consensus on where to go, determine how you’ll get there. On foot? Car? Bus? (If you’ll be carpooling, remember that anyone transporting girls needs to be a registered adult with a current background check.) Then, work out the budget. How much will the field trip cost? Do you have enough in your troop account for the trip and do girls agree to use their troop funds to pay for it? If you don’t have enough funds, are you comfortable asking families to pitch in to pay for the trip or can you think of a lower-cost alternative?
Step 4: Staying Safe
Make sure to review any relevant Safety Activity Checkpoints prior to your trip. Follow the girl-volunteer ratios in the “Knowing How Many Volunteers You Need” section to see if you’ll need to ask for additional chaperones for the day. Let your troop families know about your plans, and if you haven’t already, have families sign a Parent/Guardian Permission Slip.
Step 5: Adventure and Evaluate
It’s time for your adventure! Before you head out with your troop, it’s a good idea to review expectations and general rules for the trip. Does everyone have a buddy? Do they know what to do if they get lost? What’s proper behavior for the place you’ll be visiting? These general group management tips might also come in handy.
After you get back from your adventure, set aside some time for girls to debrief and reflect on their experience. What were some highlights of the field trip? Downsides? Would they recommend this trip to their friends and family or other troops?
There you have it—a short and sweet guide to planning a troop outing! Depending on where your troop decides to go (further afield or closer to home), these steps may take more extensive organization. Whenever possible, give your girls the opportunity to practice these planning skills themselves (like reaching a consensus on where to go, figuring out to finance it, and preparing for safety). As your troops become more confident, these small and local trips will pave the way to bigger and greater adventures. Watch out, world, here come the Girl Scouts!
Lily Yu –Lily is a Program Resource Specialist at River Valleys. She earned her BA in comparative literature and Japanese from Hamilton College and has a background in publishing and advertising. Though she wasn’t a Girl Scout growing up, Lily is making up for lost time as a volunteer and troop cookie manager for her daughter’s Brownie troop. In her free time, she enjoys going for long walks, reading, and spending time with her family (and rescue dog, Neil!)