ODL Overnight Chaperones Needed

What’s it like chaperoning an ODL Overnight

Parents ask what is it like chaperoning an overnight field trip at the Outdoor Lab. Generally, it’s like being a counselor at summer camp. You’ll guide the students through all activities, help with the family style meals in the dining area, and sleep with the students in big tents overnight. You’ll need to dress for the weather and be ready to experience nature first-hand. (In case of inclement weather, all students and chaperones sleep in our Nature Center!)

Many parents remember their chaperoning experiences fondly (even current school board members!). Students regularly remember it as one of the best experiences in their entire APS career.

Per APS policies, there will be one ODL administrator and one ODL staffer at every Outdoor Lab Overnight.  They provide guidance to students and parents to pull-off a magical group experience! Meet the ODL Staff Here. APS developed a video to help Chaperones learn about Overnights, you can view the video here.

How do I become a Chaperone for my school’s trip? (for schools, parents & PTAs):

Each school has a staff member that coordinates the overnight trip (often the 5th grade Science Teacher); each school also has an APS Volunteer Liaison that manages the volunteer approval process (Liaison List by School Here). Find these school staffers and let them know you want to be a chaperone!

  • volunteers start the online process at the APS Volunteer in a School webpage
  • when a parent registers online to be a volunteer, they get a thank you email (from Raptor System donotreply@raptortech.com, check your SPAM folder)
  • their request waits in a queue of the Volunteer Liaison at “their” school
  • when that liaison advances the request, then the email with the sexual misconduct video is sent to parent (from Raptor System)
  • parent completes the online training, passes the end of class test (80% correct) DO NOT LEAVE online training system yet
  • parent must DOWNLOAD certificate of completion from online training and EMAIL to their school’s Volunteer Liaison
  • once Liaison receives that completion email, they can approve Volunteer

START EARLY! There are a few points in the above process that can cause a delay.  Please work directly with your school’s Volunteer Liaison if you are waiting at one of the above steps.  All APS volunteer liaisons will be sent the Outdoor Lab Field Trip Schedule for their school.  If there is a problem that the school Volunteer Liaison cannot deal with, parents or schools can contact Dawn Smith, Volunteers, Partnership and Events Manager, at dawn.smith@apsva.us or 703-228-2581.

The AOEA, the non-profit that partners with APS to manage the Outdoor Lab, wants all APS students to experience all programs at the ODL.  As you go through the volunteer process, if you have other lessons learned, questions or suggestions, please reach out to Mike Maleski, President of the AOEA, at president@outdoorlab.org.

**The Proposed FY2025 budget cuts each School’s Volunteer Liaison, learn more here!

Overnight APS Policy Change History

In Spring of 2023, APS paused 5th grade Overnights to review safety and staffing procedures.

APS added an additional administrator to ODL staff and requires 2 ODL personnel at every Outdoor Lab Overnight (1 ODL administrator & 1 ODL staffer).  Meet the ODL Staff Here.

Over the summer of 2023, new safety policies and procedures were developed for overnights:

  • Large 12-person cabin tents were purchased (to replace multiple 3-4 person tents)
  • 8-10 students are assigned to sleep in a cabin tent (previously 3-4 students/tent)
  • 2 adult chaperones are required to sleep in each cabin tent with students (previously adults slept in their own small tents)
  • Ratio of adult chaperones to students must be 5:1 (previously 10:1 for overnights; remains 10:1 for 3rd & 7th grade trips)
  • Adult chaperones must be of corresponding male/female ratios to students
  • Adult chaperones consist of both School Staff and Parent Volunteers (minimum # school staff also required)
  • All Parent Chaperones must pass online APS Volunteer background check & training 3 weeks prior to ODL Overnight Trip.

In August 2023, All elementary school principals were notified of the new Overnight policies and procedures.  Likewise, all school science leads were given the Outdoor Lab field trip schedule and notified of the new Overnight policies and procedures.  The AOEA, as the APS partner in the Outdoor Lab, has asked APS to notify the APS community more broadly of the changes.

Unfortunately, some of the first schools on the schedule were caught with tight deadlines and a confusing process.  Schools, PTAs, and Parents have all learned how to navigate the process better.