Bible Teaching Methods: Methodology for Sunday School & Other Bible Teachers

This Month's Bible Teaching Method:

Field Trip

Students visit a location outside of their classroom to observe or experience first hand that which will add to or reinforce what was learned in class.

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Group size
Optimal group size will depend on the nature of the field trip and the age of the students. If students will simply be observing, perhaps the group could be larger. If students will be engaging in a hands-on experience, then the group should be smaller for better interaction and level of influence. The younger the students, the smaller the group should be to maintain good responsibility of them and attendance to their needs. If you have a large class of children or youth, then you need to break into smaller groups with a chaperone responsible for each group.

Resources needed
Obviously you need a location that fits your focus. Unless within walking distance, you will need a means of transportation. Finances may be required for entrance fees, meals, and transportation. You may need handout materials and pens/pencils or bags for students to collect items. If the field trip is with children or youth, you will need permission forms signed by parents. You may want students to wear name tags.

Objective targeted
A field trip provides students with first hand knowledge through observation, adding to their knowledge or reinforcing what has been taught. A field trip may also provide students with opportunity to experience or practice a skill and hence affect behavioral objectives as well as knowledge.

Use modeled
Jesus took His disciples with Him where He went and so much of their learning experience was like continuous field trips. They heard and saw first hand much of what He explained to them in private. They observed His miraculous power and ability to heal. They saw demonstrations of His love and compassion in life's arena.

Proximity of others
This is not an issue because a field trip takes you outside the premises. If, however, you are leaving part of the way through class time, remember to be considerate while walking through the halls past other classes.

Finances needed
Costs may be incurred for transportation, meals, and entrance fees. These costs may be passed on to the students in part or in whole. No student should be left behind because they or their parents could not afford the costs. Use discretion in planning. Arrange ways of assisting those who cannot afford the trip.

Age level
Other than infants, field trips can be used with any age level. The variables will be where you take them, how long it takes to get there, how long you stay there, and how much supervision is needed. The younger the age, the less complex and the more hands-on the location should be and the shorter the time you stay. The younger the age, the less the travel distance should be. The younger the age, the smaller the adult to student ratio should be.

Field trips are generally a student-centered methodology. When the purpose is merely to observe, the learning will be impressional. When it allows for hands-on experience, the learning will be expressional. Often a field trip may be a combination of impressional and expressional. Field trips can also be good relationship building times where group interaction and dialogue is high as they travel and experience life together.

Time required
The teacher's planning of the field trip should start weeks in advance. How much time is required will depend on the type of trip being planned. The field trip itself may be contained to the normal class time if the location is close and the objective can be accomplished in a short period of time. Often field trips will require an extended period of time and so may be scheduled different from the normal class time.

Openness of group
Most people enjoy going on a field trip but especially children. Parents of children and youth may have reservations about the trip due to safety issues. These fears can be alleviated the more you communicate information about the trip and establish policies regarding emergencies, chaperones, and other safety precautions.

Room size
This is not an issue as the class is going outside of the classroom.

Skills needed

Preliminary Preparation:

Begin preparations well in advance of the field trip date:
  • Rushing will undoubtedly mean missing important details. Your objective should be to make it go as smoothly and as safely as possible. Prevent what problems you can help. Poorly planned trips reduce their effectiveness and induce skepticism for future events.
  • Factor in the time you need to give people to get it on their calendars so they don't schedule other activities.
  • Remember the logistics of securing help needed and of collecting forms.
  • Make a checklist of all you must do beforehand, during, and after the trip. Establish deadlines and who will be responsible.
Match a location to your purpose.
  • You will greatly help yourself if, before you ever even consider a field trip for a specific lesson, you develop a list or database of locations possible to visit. Get to know your community and a radius around it within a reasonable traveling distance. Include data like what it is and what it offers, how much it costs, how long it will take to get there, what hours it is open, as well as contact information and issues peculiar to that location. Access to this information when you sit down to plan a unit of study will increase your likelihood of using this method because you already know what is available.
  • Be careful that a field trip does not become an end in itself but rather a means of complementing or reinforcing in-class studies.
Confer with church leadership.
  • Acquire necessary permission to leave the premises following procedures set up in your church.
  • If permission is not required, still inform church leadership of your intentions. Give someone all the particulars of where you are going, how you are getting there, how long you will be gone, and who is going. This precaution will help to cover you in the event of an emergency.
Schedule the field trip:
  • Check the church calendar if you plan to go at a time different from your normal meeting time. Avoid possible conflicts to help ensure that the majority of students will be able to go.
  • If you plan to make it a part of your normal class time, calculate the amount of time for travel to and from and the amount of time required at the location.
Arrange for your visit with the person in charge at the location:
  • Learn all the rules and requirements expected of those who visit.
  • If an entrance fee is required, ask about the possibility of group rates.
  • Confirm the details with this person about 24-48 hours prior to the trip.
Write any policies and procedures needed for the trip.
  • First check with the church leadership for any pre-existing policies.
  • Safety and being a good testimony should be at the forefront of your mind in developing any standards or rules.
  • Include issues pertaining to safe travel, knowing students' whereabouts, to whom they are responsible, what to do in an emergency (i.e., vehicle breakdowns or accidents, injuries, illnesses).
Line up transportation:
  • Determine how you will travel. Will students be responsible for their own transportation? Will you provide transportation? If so, does the church have a bus or van you can use or will you need to line up multiple vehicles of church members? Would it be better to secure commercial transportation?
  • Know the state laws, insurance requirements, and church policies and plan accordingly.
  • Be assured that your drivers have a good record and come under any requirements.
Provide students and parents with detailed information about the trip.
  • If your students are children or youth, provide information to parents at least 2-3 weeks prior to the trip.
  • Inform students and parents of the destination, purpose of the trip, and mode of transportation.
  • Also list what money they will need, how meals will be handled, dress code, and anything they should bring.
Secure necessary consent forms.
  • First check with the church leadership for any pre-existing forms. If you must develop the form, at minimum run it by church leadership. You may be wise in seeking legal counsel.
  • Under no circumstance should a non-adult student be permitted to leave the premises without having received a signed consent form from their legal guardians prior to leaving. Set a deadline for the return of the forms. Follow up on any that are not returned or have extra forms on hand for parents to sign if they try dropping off their child without one already on file.
Meet with the chaperones.
  • Be specific about the students for whom they will be responsible. Make sure someone is responsible for each student by name. If you are traveling with children or youth, make sure you have sufficient adult supervision. You should have one adult for every 4-5 children, possibly less depending on the age of the children. You should have one adult for every 8-10 teens, possibly more or less depending on the activity.
  • Inform them of the goals of the field trip, logistics, their responsibilities, and what to do in the event of an emergency.
  • Encourage them to see their role as more than crowd control or babysitters. Help them see themselves more as teaching assistants.
  • Provide them with a copy of what you gave to students and parents so they have a point of reference if students question them or if problems arise.
Set the stage with your students.
  • Make sure students are aware of the purpose of the trip and how it fits into what they have been learning.
  • Provide them with background information about the place they are visiting.
  • Prepare them for what to expect.
  • Provide them with questions or instructions for what they are to learn.
Have a back-up plan.
  • Think through what may interfere with your plans like the weather, unexpected transportation problems, chaperones who cancel at the last minute, etc.
  • Having identified possible obstacles, think through solutions. This may mean having people on standby or it may mean rescheduling. Perhaps you will have an alternative activity at the church.
Include students in the planning.
  • This process may be as valuable as the trip itself.

During the Trip:

Do what you can to make the trip a good experience for everyone.
  • Introduce the class to your contact person at the location and/or their guide.
  • You may want to have students wear name tags to help make it more personable between the location and your class. Name tags on children will also serve as a safety precaution should someone get lost so be sure to not only include their name but also the church name and teacher's name.
  • Keep order and enforce safety precautions.
  • If you are traveling with children or youth, go only where you said you would be going. Try to contact parents of any unavoidable changes once en route.
Help students to get the most out of this experience.
  • Encourage them to ask the guide questions if permitted.
  • Prior to arrival, give students suggestions of what to look for or questions to answer. Depending on the location and what is permitted, you may ask them to collect certain items. You could ask each student or small groups of students to look for specific things different from the others. Provide students with any materials they need to collect and record their findings.
  • See your role, and that of the chaperones, as going beyond crowd control to interacting with students about their experience either one-on-one or as a group.
Be flexible and adaptable.
  • Expect the unexpected. Realize that everything may not go exactly as planned.
  • Getting uptight will put a dampener on the experience. Be patient and make the best of it. Being good-humored will go a long way.

After the Field Trip:

Help students process what they saw and experienced.
  • Your objective is to make a connection between what they studied in class and what they did on the field trip.
  • You could ask them questions or stimulate a discussion in the parking lot prior to leaving, in the vehicle on the way, or when you are back in the classroom. Perhaps having them write a report or answer questions in writing would be valuable. You may find it helpful to have students make an exhibit back in the classroom using pictures they took or drew of their experience and items they were able to bring back. Other classes or parents could visit the exhibit.
  • Perhaps you could ask them to help you write a thank you note to the person in charge of the location stating the highlights of their trip.
Evaluate the experience.
  • Were the objectives of the field trip met? If not, what went wrong?
  • Is there anything you should do differently the next time to make this a better experience?
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(Last updated 09/01/18)