Life Skills

sleeping bag

A long standing tradition in the 4th grade at my school is a 3-day, 2-night science field trip to learn about the ecosystems of barrier islands in South Carolina. For many students, it is their first time away from home without their parents.

We stay in cabins and eat in a dining hall, so we don’t expect the students to pitch a tent or cook meals over an open fire. However, the children do need to be able to eat family style at a table of 12, and they have to make their own bed. Whether a child is attending a sleepaway camp or just a sleepover at a friend’s house, there are a few handy life skills that are good to know by about age 10.


  • Children should be able to roll a sleeping bag and get it back into a stuff sack or tied into the roll. Even if kids don’t ever attend a campout, they might need to use a sleeping bag on a sleepover at a friend’s house and will need to be able to put the sleeping bag away.
  • Kids need to know how to make a bed. I think hospital corners would be aiming a little high, but it is helpful to know how to get a fitted sheet around the edges of a mattress and pull blankets up straight.
  • Have the ability to fold clothing and pack a bag in a semi-organized fashion. Folding clothing does not have to be the perfect fold in thirds around a shirt board, but kids should be able to get a shirt or pants folded in half, socks together, and have an idea about layering items in their bag.


  • Many families have activities after school that run through dinner time, and it can be difficult to sit together at the dinner table. When you do have family meals, remind kids that they should pass food to everyone at the table. Don’t serve yourself and then set the dish right in front of you forgetting to offer food to other people.
  • Leave enough food in the dish, so everyone gets a first helping.
  • Practice asking to have salt and pepper, ketchup, or seconds on an item passed rather than standing up and reaching across others at the table.
  • Show kids how to wipe a counter or table. Push the sponge (or cloth) in one direction, so all the food crumbs stay in front of the sponge rather than wiping in a rapid circular motion. The circular motion smears dropped food all over the eating space grossing out the potentially OCD adult sitting nearby.

wiping a tableHygiene

  • My son, Mr. Star Wars, still needs occasional help washing his hair to get it clean and rinsed well. Most days, he can wash it by himself, but I do a deep clean every few weeks. Help your child practice washing hair on his own and understand all the pieces and parts that are supposed to be washed in the shower. Part of our 4th grade trip is a visit to the pluff mud pit. Several students needed a second turn in the shower after this particular activity.
  • Learn how to get and use Kleenex when needed.
  • Let kids apply their own sunblock every once in awhile. The sunblock sticks work well on faces for inexperienced sunblock appliers. Using a mirror while applying sunblock helps too.

mud pit

What are other good skills kids need to have when they are away from home? One skill I learned at camp is how useful a poncho can be for many things besides rainy weather– like bug protection, sun protection, mud protection…

BI poncho

Field Trip Chaperone Guidelines

Charlestowne Landing

I contributed an article to a website that helps teachers and schools locate and organize field trips! The article gives tips to parents about how to be a helpful chaperone.

Click to read the “Calling All Parent Chaperones” post.

Here I am on our field trip related to our studies of Colonial America.

Here I am on our field trip related to our studies of Colonial America.


Going on a Field Trip

field trip

The bulk of the field trips my teammate and I schedule occur during the last 6 weeks of school. This includes a 3 day overnight trip related to our science curriculum. If it were up to me, I would not have any field trips and definitely not any overnight trips.

When my students are in the confines of the school building, I have full control (more or less). As soon as I leave campus with my students, all kinds of untold dangers are lurking around every corner, and the number one thing on my mind is getting these students back to their families in the same condition in which they left.

We have parent volunteers accompany us on all of our expeditions and let me tell you, I am slightly picky about parent volunteers. It is not always first come, first serve in my classroom. This is what I need from parent volunteers.

Charlestowne Landing

  1. Have a cell phone in case of emergency but do not use it on the field trip. Do not make a phone call or check e-mails or texts. If you have a job that requires you to check in often, do not volunteer to chaperone.
  2. Spread out from the other parents. If all parents clump together at the back of the group, you can’t help with crowd control, discipline, and safety, and that is why I invited you along.
  3. Be at the pick up and drop off locations on time and as instructed. If you decide that it would be nice to take the kids in your car out for ice cream on the way home, or if you drive them to your house for pick up at the end of the day rather than back to the school for regular carpool line, you just created a giant liability issue for the school and me. If students ride together on a bus, this problem is eliminated!
  4. It is OK for you to discipline students if they wander away, are too loud, or are rude to the tour guide. I want your help in this area. If you are uncomfortable disciplining, let the teacher know. Please don’t sit back and watch the unacceptable behavior continue.
  5. Do not complain about school issues or faculty members on the field trip. This is not a time to vent any problems you may have with the school. It puts me in an awkward position, and it is poor manners. However, feel free to tell me what a great school year it has been.
  6. Do not try to have a parent/teacher conference while on the field trip. I can’t give you my full attention, and it is not exactly a private forum.
  7. DO enjoy yourself and this time with your child and his/her classmates. Field trips are supposed to be a little bit of fun. I do want parents who participate in the activities when appropriate and are engaged.
Here I am on our field trip related to our studies of Colonial America.

Here I am on our field trip related to our studies of Colonial America.

Managing parent volunteers on field trips for my classroom has made me more aware when I attend a field trip as the parent volunteer for my own children. I try to anticipate where a teacher might need back-up even if it is simply counting children and letting the teacher know everyone is present. Because, in the end, I always consider it a successful trip if I arrive back at school with the same amount of students I had when I left. What are your best (or worst) field trip stories? The teacher or parent version!