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 one ODL administrator and one ODL staffer to be at every Outdoor Lab Overnight. Meet the ODL Staff Here.
Over the summer, 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 (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. The online Volunteer background check process and training were initial frustrations.
Lessons Learned for all schools, parents & PTAs:
- each school has an APS Volunteer Liaison that manages the approval process (Liaison List by School Here)
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org, 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
There are a few points in the above process that can cause a delay. Please work directly with school Volunteer Liaison if you are waiting on them. 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 email@example.com 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. If you have other lessons learned, questions or suggestions, please reach out to Mike Maleski, President of the AOEA, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What’s it like chaperoning an ODL Overnight
Many parents ask what its like chaperoning an overnight field trip at the Outdoor Lab. Generally, its 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 overnight. Many parents remember their chaperoning experiences fondly (even current school board members!)
In case of inclement weather, all students and chaperones move into our Nature Center for sleeping.
The Outdoor Lab Staff is developing information videos and slide decks to help parents understand what its like.