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Quite often the difference between the loss or continued abuse of a resource and an innovative solution to protect it is a rallying of caring, interested people. Even though a resource may literally be in someone’s backyard, do not assume they make use of it, are aware of threats to it or are knowledgeable about its importance and history. Field trips to the resource such as a guided canoe trip or a hike with a knowledgeable guide can generate interest and enthusiasm for its care. An overlooked site may be seen as an opportunity for community renewal. We find this outreach tool is also an excellent way to reach diverse interests and non-traditional groups.

Whether a field trip is organized to occur once or it becomes an ongoing event, it can accomplish a great deal by bringing attention to a resource and an area. Field trips, whether a hike, historic tour, or a canoe trip, should include three basic elements: physical, educational and service. Physical refers to actually participating in an activity like walking or paddling versus watching a slideshow or hearing a lecture. The educational element is the planned activities that will help people grow in awareness about the resource and their community. This can happen through stories, games and talks. The service component suggests that while the group is enjoying the resource they also participate in actions that help conserve it. This can be as simple as picking up trash to water testing to bringing school children or senior citizens on the outing. When planning field trips, keep in mind the following:

  • The more specific the mission for a trip, the more successful at achieving the desired goals and generating enthusiasm.
  • Get experienced people to help lead and help prepare promotional materials.
  • Limit the number of participants based on safety and resource capacity.
  • Get maximum media exposure.

1. Form an event planning committee

This group will develop a mission statement (or statement of purpose), write goals and objectives for the event and, if appropriate, select a theme. Then determine the target audience for whom is the trip designed?

2. Determine the Budget

Field trips will incur costs such as transportation, food, printing for invitations and flyers, equipment (e.g., boat rentals if canoeing) and event mementos. Some local businesses may be interested in donating products or their services. It may also be possible to secure funding through a grant.

3. Set a Date

Consider any schedule conflicts including holidays, school calendars and peak seasons. Also factor in the weather and time of year. Once the date is set, announce it, even before invitations or flyers are ready.

4. Planning the Event

  • Determine where to go and for how long (i.e., overnight, day-trip): The location should be easily accessible and fit with the mission statement. Select start and ending points.
  • If necessary, make reservations and secure any necessary permits.
  • Arrange for transportation to the site and return.
  • Scope out and test the itinerary to make cure it can easily accommodate the scheduled time period.
  • Plan conservation and educational activities that will occur during trip: Purchase any necessary supplies.
  • Design and order activity souvenirs or mementos.
  • Plan snacks and meals. Take into consideration dietary restrictions (allergies and/or religious.
  • Prepare publicity materials that may include: brochures, advertisements, press releases and media kits. Invite media contacts and key elected officials.
  • Decide course of action for inclement weather: Will the trip be held rain or shine? Is there an alternate date? Is there a phone number that can be called with a recording if the weather is questionable?
  • Contact emergency services to be available during the field trip. The type of event will determine who they should be.
  • Be creative!

5. Prepare Registration Materials

  • Develop a brochure that explains the purpose of the trip, where the group is going, background about current or past conservation efforts, trip itinerary and any other relevant information to help prepare participants.
  • Determine fees, if any.
  • Prepare maps and directions to start and end points.
  • Create registration forms that include emergency contacts, medical information and liability waivers, if appropriate or required.
  • Establish system for confirming attendance.

6. The Trip

  • Gather attendees before beginning the trip to go over the schedule.
  • Provide useful handouts (e.g., maps with itinerary marked, rest stops, and important sites)
  • Encourage people to take photographs. If a small group, consider providing a disposable camera for each person. A local camera shop may help share the cost.
  • Use a pace that is comfortable for everyone.
  • Intersperse skilled people among the group to answer questions and handle any emergencies.
  • Arrange periodic stops to regroup and discuss observations.
  • Consider some activity or challenge for attendees to do, such as, a scavenger hunt, journal keeping or sketches. These things are fun to share at the end of the trip and serve as documentation of what occurred.
  • Plan a celebratory ending for everyone involved. Refreshments, awards, or even a key note speaker can be enjoyable.
  • Have fun!
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Introducing community residents and other stakeholders to important places (e.g., river, park, historic site, trail, etc.) to engage their support in caring for the resource.
  • You want a strong, excited, sustaining constituency where people feel responsible for a resource.
  • You need to reinvigorate interest in a project. This is particularly effective in a multi-year project where involvement tends to decline.
  • You want some media coverage. Plan a special event and invite a reporter along, or take pictures and write a press release about the fun participants had during the trip.
  • You need to reach underrepresented groups. Organize a field trip for a group that has not been involved in other activities and target the information specifically to the group.
  • You are looking for a quick solution. Running successful field trips often require extensive logistical planning and long lead times. A small budget may also be a limiting factor.
  • You do not have a leader committed to seeing the activity through. Because these activities target people who may be unfamiliar with a resource and usually a significant amount of their time, well-planned and executed activities are absolutely essential. The lead person needs to be detail-oriented and organized.
  • You are unclear of liability issues. Always expect nothing will happen but always prepare for worst-case scenarios.  


  • Field trips can be used throughout the lifespan of a project.
  • Run trips before a project begins to recruit volunteers, educate about the planning process and develop enthusiasm within the community.
  • Run trips during a project to keep excitement levels high, reach new interest groups and provide progress reports.
  • Run trips as a follow-up to a project to promote the effort and accomplishments and to publicly thank key community leaders and volunteers.