How to organise an excursion

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For many years school groups have visited many sites along the Murray River. First hand experiences such as excursions offer the opportunity for students to:

-        better understand some of their remarkable and unique environments.

-       Make strong connections between their knowledge and the environment on the excursion.

-       Enable them to use a variety of thinking skills from lower order observation through to higher order thinking skills such as explaining, hypothesizing and interpreting during and after their excursion.

Deciding on a site and who can help?

Firstly you will need to decide, with or without your class, the site for your excursion. Contact MDBA staff before deciding to organise an excursion to check suitability

For help and advice contact your local Environmental Education Centre or other local organization, to point you in the right direction.

They can help you plan an excursion by outlining what the icon site offers and suggesting the best places and time of year to visit and the locations of facilities. They may also be able to assist you at the excursion site, and provide you with relevant information material.

Sample Excursions

Four sample excursions outlines have been developed for and are available from this teaching and learning centre. These sites focus upon industry and agriculture as well as historical and cultural importance of the Murray River.

The sites include

  • Dry land farm – ‘Savernake’ case study
  • Boat Rock – Savernake
  • Gol Gol Environmental Education program
  • Rio Vista / Johnson’s Bend Sandbar project

You can view these sample excursions here

Walk around the Murray

Another valuable resource for teacher planning an excursions is the  ‘Walk around the Murray’ resource book. This easy to access excursion handbook has excursion sites for South Australia, contacts for South Australia as well as great resources for students to complete on the excursion for any area along the Murray River.

Icon sites

Alternatively you could visit a Living Murray icon site such as :

1) Barmah–Millewa Forest

2) Gunbower – Koondrook Perricoota Forest

3) Hattah Lakes

4) Chowilla Lindsay–Wallpolla( 4), the Lower Lakes

5) Coorong and Murray Mouth, and the River Murray Channel

Icon sites are excellent places because they are:

  • Easily accessible with good signage
  • Well researched and offer a great deal of scientific and technical information
  • Serviced by staff with technical, environmental, and Aboriginal knowledge
  • Located on publicly-managed land and offer relatively safe and risk-free environments for students
  • Most sites have toilets, BBQ and camping facilities

For more information, reports, fact sheets and general information about The Living Murray program, visit the Murray-Darling Basin Authority website:

Here are some key steps to following when planning an excursion;

1.     Build up your knowledge

Build up your own knowledge and resources relating to the site including: key sites, species, significant features, importance, National parks, agriculture, industry connections and tourism.

2.     Approval process

Teachers need to gain approval for excursions by following their school policy.  In seeking approval from their Principal, teachers should have firsthand knowledge of the field trip sites. Teachers need to be convinced of the educational benefit for the excursion, stating the reason to visit as being pivotal to key learning areas, the field trip as a key motivator for students in active learning, engaging and appropriate to key stage and development requirements.

3.     Health and Safety Issues

An excursion is a highly valuable firsthand experience for students. However to ensure the safety and well being of students and staff important considerations must be made.

Teachers must accept full responsibility for taking their students on excursions and we recommend that each teacher do a site visit and risk assessment for excursion sites before taking students into the field. Your schools may have your own standardised risk assessment but if not here is an example template

When planning and visiting your excursion site prior to the excursion, ask yourself these questions:

  • What Teacher/Student ratio will I need given my class size and needs?
  • Are there parents who could become involved?
  • Are there volunteers and experts we could learn from?

When endeavouring on an excursion follow your school guidelines. Available below are sample risk assessments and sample OH&S plans as well as templates that can be downloaded and used accordingly.

4.     Visit the site

It is essential that you visit and investigate your excursion site prior to your excursion. This will enable you to plan your excursion effectively complete a risk assessment and ensure you have a good knowledge of site.

No sites should be visited unseen. In NSW and Victoria schools are required to file excursion risk assessments in the school OH&S or School excursion registration folder. It is important to bring a copy of the risk assessment form with you on the excursion.

5.     Timing

When planning your excursion consider the timing of your excursion.  March to October are key times for excursion with more reliable weather that also avoids extreme heat and cold.

6.     Students needs

Individual student considerations will need to be taken into account by the class teacher including dietary, mobility and behavioural factors. If additional support is required this must be organized well in advance of the excursion day.

7.     Parents and permission

Provide parents with information along with their permission forms. Information should include excursion location, times, travel, costs, support staff, curriculum links, appropriate clothing and whether food and water is necessary.

8.     Costs

Consideration must be given to the cost of the excursion. Of primary concern are transport costs. This could include depending upon the site, bus hire, boat, charter or paddle steamer hire.

Undertake research as to whether your excursion could be fully or partly subsidized to assist your principal and school families. Funds could be targeted from key learning areas budget such as humanities or science. It may be worthwhile talking with local organizations, the P&C, local industries, and through drought assistance funding provided by the commonwealth government.

9.     Student Preparation

Ideally before your excursion it is important to build students prior knowledge around the excursion site as well as to explore current issues surrounding the River Murray.

This may include:

  • Where is the Murray River?
  • Life of the Murray: Flora and Fauna
  • Ecosystems and communities
  • Water
  • Why is it important: Industry, agriculture, history and tourism
  • Key Issues such as salinity and feral animals.

Many teaching and learning resources are available from the Resources section as well as the maps and information section to help you plan your excursion site activities.

10.     Equipment

When planning fieldwork have materials and equipment organized.

  • Binoculars
  • Clip boards
  • Pencils
  • Art materials- crayons, coloured pencils or charcoal
  • Digital cameras for records
  • Tissues
  • First aid kits
  • Students medication or epipens
  • Monitoring equipment
  • Charged Mobile Phone
  • Emergency contact list
  • Spare paper for incident recording
  • Class roll with list of students needs
  • Excursion Risk Assessment
  • Witches hats for laying our boundaries and defining areais
  • Whistle
  • Hats and sunscreen
  • Rain jackets
  • Enclosed shoes

11.     Excursion activities

Below is a link to various excursion activities collected and adapted by Paul Greenwood. These resources can be downloaded and adapted to suit students from Early Stage 1- Stage 4.

It is suggested to organise students into Team work and groups activities. Therefore each child is actively engaged for duration of excursion.

Click here to view the excursion activities on this website

12.     CMA Guidelines

The following guidelines are to assist BR-G CMA staff who work with schools and students. The guidelines describe the working relationship, from a legal and insurance perspective. These guidelines are based upon information provided in the Outdoor Education Management Handbook, Department of Education and validated by the Solicitor General.

  • Any field trip involving the BR-G CMA and a school group must be viewed as a “School Excursion” under the full control of the school. Schools are to provide the appropriate student / teacher ratio in accordance with the Department of Education and Training policies.
  • Throughout the duration of the excursion, a teacher(s) should be present to take overall responsibility for “crowd control” and discipline. CMA staff are not trained teachers, and under the Department of Education and Training “duty of care” policy, non-teaching staff are not to be left in charge of any group of students.
  • The role and duties of CMA staff and any other guest presenter that may be involved are to be determined, clearly defined and agreed upon prior to the commencement of the field trip / school visit. A “Working With Schools” Agreement Form must be completed and signed by a school and CMA representative prior to the event (preferably a week in advance).
  • As part of school duty-of-care, First Aid is not the primary responsibility of CMA staff. Please be aware that CMA staff will be equipped with First Aid equipment, and will be willing to assist in the event of an emergency. However we do expect the school to provide their own First Aid equipment, and a staff member with the appropriate training.
  • Upon arrival at any school, CMA staff are to register in a log as a volunteer by the principal prior to commencement of any presentation / workshop. In the case of Field Trips / Excursions, the “Working With Schools” Agreement Form must be signed by representatives from both the school and CMA.
  • The Department of Education Insurance Policies for “Third Party Liability” and for “Accident Insurance” are to cover any injury to students or CMA staff for the duration of the field trip / school visit.
  • A minimum of two CMA staff members are to attend any field trip or school visit. The presence of a second adult is always required when a CMA staff member is engaged with a group of students. At no stage is a CMA staff member to be left alone with an individual student, or group of students.
  • All CMA staff involved in education programs are required by law to undergo a Police Record Check. Records of these checks will be kept on file, and copies can be provided to schools in advance of field trips or school visits.
  • On the occasion that the CMA have arranged a field site for a school visit, a “Risk Assessment” can be conducted by a CMA representative prior to the field trip. However, if the field site has been arranged by the school, the responsibility for “Risk Assessment” falls upon the school.