ERIC Identifier: ED260883
Publication Date: 1985-02-00
Author: Little, Mickey - Peterson, Lin
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Rural Education and Small Schools Las Cruces NM.

Planning a Class Camping Trip. ERIC Digest: Outdoor Education.

A well-planned class camping trip is a learning adventure which develops personal values and concepts, generates skills for lifelong learning, encourages group cooperation, and enhances knowledge of and appreciation for the natural environment. Good planning will ensure a successful and fruitful trip. This digest is intended to serve as a guide to help teachers offer this unique learning opportunity to their students.


The students, under the careful guidance and direction of their leaders, should determine the goals and objectives of the trip and identify ways to accomplish them. They will thus become committed from the outset to making the trip a success.


Among the factors to be considered in deciding on the type of trip to take are the following:

--Characteristics of group members such as age, special needs, and special skills. --Purpose for which the camping trip is to be made. --Length of time the trip will last, including traveling time. --Distance to be traveled, mode of transportation, and destination. --Activities anticipated and support tasks to be performed. --Season of the year.

The most prevalent type of trip, and probably the easiest to plan, is car camping to a near-by site for only one or two nights. The group may either remain at the location for their activities or use their campsite as a base camp and take trips from there.

There are, however, numerous alternatives. For example, groups may consider a camping trip involving other means of travel such as canoeing, bicycling, backpacking, or cross-country skiing. Obviously, these types of trips require specialized skills and equipment.


Students may participate in the following learning experiences during a camping trip:

--Observe, identify, and/or collect specimens (leaves, flowers, rockes, etc.). --View a natural site (canyons, caves, waterfalls, etc.). --Visit an historical site. --Use a variety of camping skills (firebuilding, cooking, etc.). --Participate in outdoor adventure activities (canoeing, rock climbing, rappelling, backpacking, etc.).

The philosophy of outdoor education definitely needs to be instilled in students so that they understand that a camping trip is a privilege and a special opportunity to enhance learning.


Numerous sites suitable for a class camping trip exist. Among these are areas administered by the National Park Service, the state and county recreation and parks department, the Corps of Engineers and other river authorities, the Bureau of Land Management, and the National Forest Service. Others include privately owned or agency administered camps and privately owned farms and ranches. Many of the above have group camp sites available by reservation. If a large area is not available at an organized campground, the class can camp on adjoining sites in groups of 8 or 12 per site with an adult leader.

Facilities vary from no conveniences (primitive) to numerous conveniences such as picnic tables, grills, firewood, tent pads, restrooms, showers, potable water, electricity, open shelters, screened shelters, pay telephones, etc. The trip leader should visit the site prior to the trip to determine the exact facilities available. Camping guidebooks are available in many states and will be a valuable resource when planning the trip. They usually provide lists of campsites and note available facilities and/or conveniences.


A ratio of one adult to 8-12 students should be maintained, with a minimum of two adults for small groups. The total number of students should be no larger than can be handled safely and effectively for that particular age group. Consideration must be given to the activities planned as well as to the camping situation. A maximum of 32 students with a minimum of four experienced adults as camping supervisors is recommended.

The actual camping situation can also be organized. The participants may choose from options like the following:

--Camp in one group with the meals prepared for the entire group. --Camp in three or four separate groups of 8 to 12 members each. Each group would prepare the same menu to make meal planning and food buying easier. --Camp in three or four distinct groups, with each group planning its own menu. This plan works best with older campers who already have camping experience.

It is imperative that duties be assigned in advance. Duties should be posted on a "Kaper chart" which itemizes such activities as pitching tents, building campfires, cooking, cleaning up, planning and leading evening campfire songs and programs, loading equipment, cleaning the campsite before departing, and others. If the students have been involved with the planning, the many duties necessary to have a successful camping trip will be evident.

The supervising adults should assist the students with various chores. This provides both guidance and positive reinforcement of desired behavior.


An effective and efficient way to plan is to utilize various checklists and "Kaper charts" for duties. Students of any age are quite capable of making the majority of decisions if the areas of concern are brought to their attention. Initially, students may work in small groups to plan such items as menu, equipment needs, activity schedule, tenting groups, etc. Then, as the groups share their information with the entire class and decisions are finalized, the students become totally committed to the trip logistics and to the cooperation demanded of them as members of the class.

Obviously, some areas of concern are the sole responsibility of the teacher, but student involvement should receive a high priority. Thus, the following topics should be addressed either by the leader or by the class members with leader assistance.

--Trip Goals and Objectives: Determine the purpose of the trip and prepare a schedule of activities with a time line. --Camping Skills: Review the necessary skills in class prior to the trip. These might include pitching a tent, lighting a gas lantern, canoeing, etc. --Adult Leaders: Adults who have camping experience and the necessary skills to lead planned activities are needed to support the teacher/leader. --Travel Plans: Transportation should be provided by the school because of liability. Schedule the bus or cars, secure maps, plan a travel itinerary, assign students to specific cars if a bus is not available, arrange for the car shuttle if needed as in the case of a canoe trip, etc. --Camping Site: Make arrangements in advance to reserve the camp site. Find out exactly what facilities are available, what fees are charged, and what permits are required. --Finances: Participation fees need to be determined. These are based on estimated travel expenses, campground fees, food costs, and miscellaneous items. --Weather: Consider weather conditions, plan for possible extremes to prevent emergency situations, and have a contingency plan. Check with the most competent weather information service within 24 hours of the trip. --Kaper Chart: A Kaper chart displays duties with corresponding names so that it is clear at a glance who is assigned what chore. This method enables the duties to be evenly distributed and gives every person specific responsibilities and opportunities. The chart could also show who tents together and who rides in specific cars. --Meals: Prepare a form that displays both the menu and a list of requested food items to prepare it. Include a staples and supplies list and an equipment list. --Equipment: Categorized lists of equipment, both personal and group, should be compiled. Group equipment includes camping gear such as tents, tarps, lanterns; cooking supplies such as stoves, cook pots, spatulas, spoons, fire building tools; clean-up materials such as dish pans, pans to heat water; storage containers such as ice chests, water jugs; and eating utensils such as plates, cups, forks. Such group equipment will probably need to be borrowed if the school does not own any, but individuals are responsible for their personal gear. --Safety: The saying, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," is worth serious consideration. Safety should be stressed in all phases of planning as well as on the trip itself. --Emergency Plans: The leader should have a list of the parents' home and work telephone numbers. Awareness of any medical restrictions, allergies, physical limitations and special medications is necessary. Camping equipment should include a fully equipped first-aid kit. An emergency plan should specify who will go with the patient and who will stay with the group. --Group Rules and Regulations: All possible rules should be discussed and agreed upon prior to the trip. They might include a desired dress code, the type of footwear appropriate, desired conduct, etc. Students who do not agree to abide by these rules should not go on the trip. --School Policies and Procedures: Check with school administrators regarding such items as administrative permission for the trip, the form to be used for parental permission, travel arrangements, use of adult leaders other than school personnel, liability, handling of the trip expenses, available equipment, etc. A list of all students making the trip, the travel itinerary, and the activity schedule, along with any other information requested, should be filed with the principal. Parents should also be apprised of the objectives of the trip, the activity schedule, and the travel itinerary.


Since the camping trip has educational goals, every effort should be made for the classroom teachers to use various aspects of the camping experience as a follow-up. It can be used to enhance learning in various curriculum areas such as language arts, science, history, and physical education. Even teachers who did not accompany the group can relate to the experiences in a positive way if they are informed of the details of the trip.

Other possible follow-up activities include the following:

--Cleaning and returning all equipment. --Writing thank-you notes to those who assisted in any way. --Obtaining a written evaluation from each adult helper. --Preparing a written report, one from each student of specific activities and insights and perhaps a trip critique.

The trip leader should definitely compile a summary report to document the trip and to help plan future trips. It could contain the following lists and information:

--Trip objectives. --Names of students who made the trip. --Names of adult leaders, along with their addresses, telephone numbers, and responsibilites. --Travel itinerary and activity schedule. --Total trip costs: travel, food, campground fee, and miscellaneous expenses. --Addresses and telephone numbers of campground, sites visited, etc. --Copies of all forms and lists used. --Conclusions drawn from evaluations of adult helpers and students. --Notations on positive aspects of the trip. --Problems encountered and ways to avoid them in the future.


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