Going further, being connected
Once you have a good established local excursion culture it is easier to go further into the community. These excursions are more complex as they involve transport by bus and therefore are planned well in advance, rather than our spontaneous walking excursions. The philosophy behind the excursions remains the same, however: children must go out into their communities in order to build a sense of connection and belonging.
Regular excursions vs one off excursions
We ask families to provide a 12 month ongoing permission for excursions to locations we visit on a regular basis, such as the local library. which is a 10 minute public bus ride from the service.
At times when children have been exploring a particular topic in the service we will plan an excursion to experience this further; this could be to a museum or gallery, a special exhibition or some other attraction (see our NSW Art Gallery story below).
Planning and permission for this one-off type of excursion is thorough and exclusive to that location and day. Parents are advised at least two to three weeks ahead of the date (the regulatory requirement is two weeks).
We use public transport quite often, and we have designated routes that are part of our risk assessment. We mostly use buses, however occasionally we use the light rail to get into the city centre. Our bus stop to travel to the city is approximately 200 metres from our service, with a pedestrian crossing at one intersection along that road. Our other bus stop on return trips is approximately 100 metres from the service – a shorter walk back if the children are tired!
Tips for public transport:
- when taking a full class, split into two smaller groups and catch separate buses
- pre-pay tickets or purchase top-up public transport cards for your system, like Opal, Myki or Go Cards
Private Transport (buses)
Our toddler class of 20 children went to the Powerhouse Museum by private bus in 2015. We used a private bus company with the bus fitted with seatbelts for safety. With such a large group we had two teachers and three educators attending, along with 15 parent helpers to assist during the excursion and travelling to and from the museum.
We find private bus transport expensive and therefore try to avoid using it as much as possible.
Large group vs small groups
As a team, we have found that the location of the excursion will dictate whether we take the children as a whole class group or divide them into smaller groups.
We have taken the children on excursions in the following ways:
- whole class group with educators and parent helpers
- one small group and two educators
- small groups that rotate week-a-about so that all children have the opportunity to participate
This year we have taken each preschool child out three times in a group of eight to the city. There have been two excursions to the Australian Museum and one to the NSW Art Gallery.
While an increased educator to child ratio for excursions is not specified in the National Regulations, there is a requirement to adequately supervise children at all times. In our first post in this series we talked about our risk assessment process and also how valuable we have found it to evaluate each outing or excursion straight after it occurs..
A centre-based service approval states the maximum number of children that may be educated and cared for at any one time, and the approved provider must ensure this number is not exceeded (except for children being educated and cared for in an emergency under regulation 123). An approved provider must also ensure the maximum number of children is not exceeded during excursions. Children are considered as being educated and cared for by a service if they are enrolled at the service and have been signed in.
Ratios are not set specifically for excursions, however you have to meet the same minimum ratios that apply while at the service. You must consider if you will need extra people to provide adequate supervision at all times and a risk assessment should be completed before an excursion.
To assist you, ACECQA has designed a template excursion risk management plan. More information on excursion ratios is contained in the Guide to the National Law and National Regulations (pages 70-71).
Source: ACECQA FAQs – Staffing Arrangements for excursions
Partnerships with families
Excursions should not be limited to the older children. To allow our Bilby Room (birth – two years) children to get ‘outside the gate’, we asked our families if they had a pram that they didn’t use anymore, and that we could borrow. Thanks to our families, we now have two double prams and a single to use with the children (pictured left).
We often have family members join us on larger excursions. In December last year we took our whole preschool class on the public bus to the Sydney Opera house to see Room on the Broom. On the way we stopped in the Royal Botanical Gardens for a picnic lunch (pictured, top). Feedback from the parents was enthusiastic and showed they also enjoyed the day.
Such an amazing day! I really enjoyed being able to go with the kids and amazing teachers. Craig T, parent.
Tips for larger excursions:
- complete detailed risk assessments
- have Opal (transport) cards topped up
- ensure all children wear name tags with service contact information
- create a run sheet for the day and communicate to each educator the plans and what their role is
- when taking out more than 10 children at a time split the group into 2 smaller groups
- have detailed plans for what each group is doing when you get to the venue
- speak to the venue in advance – they will be able to let you know the most appropriate places for your group to meet, wait, eat and use the bathroom
- ensure there are regular opportunities to go to the toilet
- invest in a two-wheel shopper trolley for your supplies of food, medication etc
- while on an excursion use routine language and rituals with children to settle and group them, such as a particular song or phrase used at group time.
Educator documentation from an excursion
Explore & Develop, Annandale
This morning Jess and I ventured with eight Possums to the Art Gallery of new South Wales.
Our Possums were amazing! They showed their knowledge of Indigenous art styles and materials down in the Yirababa Gallery. We also had a look at some works in the National 2017 Contemporary Australian art exhibition, where the Possums displayed curiosity, wonder and imagination as they wondered what the art was all about.
It was a joy to hear them making connections between the art and their understanding of the world. While we were looking at the art, we ask open ended questions like “What do you think the artist wants to tell us with this art?”. We take our time, pause, listen and allow the children to form ideas and chat about them. When we had a reflective conversation at the end of our visit it was great to hear them discussing all the different art and hear that they all liked different pieces for different reasons.
Jess and I had a proud teacher moment when some Possums noted that the ‘big kids’ (high school students), who were running and shouting in the gallery, were not behaving appropriately and not “respecting the art”.
Again Jess and I noted how different groups of children engage differently and seem to drawn to different pieces. Today’s group loved contemporary sculpture, identifying shapes and wondering what materials artists used and why. We spoke about how sculptures invite the viewer to look from all sides and practiced walking around the art, slowly and carefully, pausing to gaze from different perspectives.
We were delighted when right at the end of our visit we found a work that the security guard said we could actually touch and even walk on!
Meet the authors
Su Garrett is the Approved Provider and Nominated Supervisor for Explore & Develop Annandale. She has been in this role for 4½ years and has worked in early childhood for 16 years. “It is my goal to provide an environment where: the needs of the children at the priority a, they have time to play and interact with their peers.” We provide an environment where educators are valued as key in the scaffolding of children’s learning. Ensuring that children and educators are connected with our community is vital to building meaningful partnerships.Lauren Kenny is the Educational Leader at Explore & Develop Annandale. She has been in this role for 4½ years and has been working with children and families for the past 15 years. “I am passionate about children being visible in the community and making connections to real life experiences that further support their learning”.
Community Early Learning Australia is a not for profit organisation with a focus on amplifying the value of early learning for every child across Australia - representing our members and uniting our sector as a force for quality education and care.