Two teachers and 16 of their 10th-grade students perished when German Wings Flight 4U9525 crashed in the French Alps last March 24. These high school students spent a weeklong exchange trip in a town near Barcelona and on their way back to Haltern, a rural town, 80 kilometers North East of Dusseldorf, Germany when the tragedy occurred.
School-sponsored off school field trips are designed to enhance classroom learning, cultivate a variety of interest among students, and expose them to a different culture. An “Exchange Trip” exclusively provides students with an opportunity to study language and gain overseas experience. For instance, the 10th graders who were on board Flight AU9525 were given the opportunity to learn Spanish language and culture in a town near Barcelona.
However, although the objective of school field trip greatly benefits students in terms of knowledge and skills, such activity is risky and involved several health and safety concerns. Most parents are worried about field trip’s inherent risk of injuries such as falls, slips, and others and the ratio of teachers to students in ensuring the safety of each participant.
The above concerns are legitimate as in reality, a significant number of students perished or were severely injured during their field trips. For instance, seven students of a State University crossing a river during their educational tour died when the water suddenly surged and swept them away. Two middle school students on a field trip were severely injured when the small aircraft carrying them skidded off the runway and went down on a steep embankment at Rock Airport in Pennsylvania, U.S. in 2011. In 2014, hundreds of Korean high school students on a field trip to Holiday Island drowned when their ferry suddenly sank and swept away by subsequent strong currents and underflow.
Most schools’ field trip policy holds trip leaders directly responsible for the safety of all students, staff, and volunteers, during a field trip. Under this policy, trip leaders are commonly expected to perform several basic duties such as warn and inform, provide instructions and safety equipment, supervise, and provide swift and appropriate post-injury care.
Supervising hundreds of students at all times and exercising close control over them during a field trip seems nearly impossible for field trip leaders but it can be done through systematic accounting and assigning the right number of supervisors for a particular field trip. For instance, a number of students, age, maturity, type and duration of a field trip, transportation, and emergency requirements are factors for determining the number of chaperones required.
Since field trips concern parents, it is critical for trip leaders or teachers to acquire permission and provide parents with necessary information such as the purpose of the trip, food and clothing requirements, and others. Controlling students during a field trip is much easier when they are well informed and committed to their own safety. For instance, students who clearly understand the reasons for safety guidelines are likely to internalize a commitment to safeguard themselves and others and become a vigilant teacher’s partner in safety.
For as long as safety measures are strictly followed, air travel according to study is still one of the safest forms of travel. In fact, although surviving an aircraft accident is low, commercial airlines accidents are relatively rare. School-sponsored exchange trips, therefore, should continue and not be discouraged by the recent German Wings crash.
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