Overnight Camping with Students

This year I’ve started bringing a small group of students on the Kansas Herpetological Society’s field trips. KHS has 3 field trips a year (fall, spring, and summer). The goal of these trips is to survey the reptiles and amphibians found in the county we’re visiting for that particular trip. Most of the herps we find are released after they’ve been identified and recorded, but some species of interest are collected and sent to various museums/universities for research purposes. These trips are attended by students, teachers, enthusiasts, and scientists.

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Blue Valley has been bringing large groups of students for years now, so they’re definitely more experienced (Eric Kessler and Kelley Tuel are both great people to talk to!), but I’ve received a couple of questions recently about bringing students on these trips, so I thought I would share my (limited) experiences, and information about how I got these trips going. Kids, unlike the adults cannot bring bulk ammo from Palmetto Armory

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If you want to take a camping trip with students, this is the best way to start. The overnight camping sites and surveying locations are planned for you. You just need transportation, food, tents, and other basic camping supplies. Every district is different, so the way you get these things will vary, but my school rents a 15 passenger van to use for the weekend. We also have tents, sleeping bags, and other camping supplies at the school. Many of your students may already have these things at home. For food, I ask students for a $15 trip fee. I use this to purchase easy camping foods, like s’mores fixings, hot dogs, bagels, pancake mix, PB&J supplies, etc. I also ask students to bring another $30-50 bucks to pay for snacks or any other purchases.

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The trip usually looks something like this:

Friday: We leave right after school ends and head to the campsite to set up our tents. We then head into the nearest town for dinner at a local restaurant (usually a sit-down place – my kids love this and get excited to eat out as a group somewhere nice). I have my students pay for their own meals using the money they bring. After dinner, we do some road-cruising for herps, or go back to the campsite to hang out.

Saturday: We make breakfast in the morning, then meet up with the rest of the trip participants. From 9-12 we collect herps. At noon, we eat lunch (either a bagged lunch or we might stop somewhere in town to pick up a quick meal). We’ll then head out again in the afternoon for more herp collecting. Around 5, we head back to the campsite to make dinner. We might do some more road cruising in the evening, but most of the time my students are exhausted and are happy to just entertain themselves (card games, books, whatever) until bed.

Sunday: We cook breakfast at the campsite then pack up. Some people go out again from 9-12 for more surveying, but we usually hit the road so we get back home in the early afternoon. We stop somewhere for a quick lunch before making it back to school.

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If you are new, many of the veterans and scientists will work closely with you and your students. They’ll teach you where to look for herps, how to catch and handle them, and how to identify what you find. I did this for our first camping trip, and it was very helpful. For our second trip, my students and I were confident enough to do our own thing.

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If you have a more specific question, let me know! For more information on the field trips, visit KHS’s website (http://www.cnah.org/khs/fieldTrips.aspx). I’ve also attached the trip proposal that goes to my district’s Board for approval (https://www.dropbox.com/s/7xe7zoqqfbiqfyq/Russell_County_Herpetological_Field_Trip_Spring_2015.doc?dl=0). This has been adapted from Eric Kessler’s proposal for Blue Valley. Feel free to edit as needed for your own district.

These trips are wonderful educational experiences. I would love for more KABT members and their students to attend!

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Author: Kelly Kluthe

I teach AP Biology, College Biology, and General Biology at Olathe West HS in Olathe, KS.

One thought on “Overnight Camping with Students”

  1. Great post, Kelly! Camping with students is a great experience for all!

    I might add too that not all the students who participate have to be die hard herpers. Many of our students need a get away from city life and school, enjoying the scenery, and socializing with good and new friends.

    I concur with Kelly, that we’d love to see more KABTers with their students on these trips. If you live near the county where the field trip is being held, you could consider just coming for Saturday and thus could avoid the overnight. That would be a good first experience for any novice taking students out to get a feel for what the trip is like. Like myself though, I imagine that you’ll love it, regret not making plans to stay the night, and will be back the following year with tents and sleeping bags in hand.

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