The College of the Environment is renowned for academic excellence and a tremendous depth of experiential learning opportunities. Critical to our continued success is our dedication to safety, especially in the lab and field, and the protection of our students’ learning experiences. Thus, we have created these fieldtrip/field course guidelines to ensure that:

  1. we maintain and deepen the College’s field-based opportunities,
  2. all registered students can take full advantage of their courses,
  3. and, if there is an impediment to a student participating fully, a quality alternative opportunity is found.

The College must also comply with University of Washington regulations regarding lab and field safety. These guidelines serve to centralize the relevant state and University policies and provide best practices for instructors and students.

These guidelines apply to credit-bearing courses listed in the UW time schedule, regardless of course location (on or off campus). They do not apply to informal, non-credit, unit-sponsored outings.

Instructor Responsibilities

All courses with fieldtrips requiring time outside of the published day-times for regular course meetings must publish the trip requirements in the time schedule and on the course syllabus. Syllabi may link to the College website on course field trip guidelines.

If the below stated UW policies and College fieldtrip guidelines mean that a student cannot participate in the fieldtrip, it is the instructor’s responsibility to make reasonable efforts to arrange an alternate assignment for the student.

Best Practices


Publish fieldtrip information in the course syllabus, including the date and whether the trip is required or optional. The course syllabus should also include duration, location, means of transportation and any unusual requirements particular to the trip (e.g., long duration hikes, work a high altitudes, working in water, possible extreme weather conditions, etc.), and finally a link to these guidelines.

If a field opportunity arises after the time schedule is published, notify the class as soon as possible and make the trip optional.

If an alternative assignment is required for a student unable to participate in a fieldtrip, communicate with the student to determine any time or travel restrictions they have (ex: a student may not be able to participate in anything – field or otherwise – after a certain time of day because of employment or childcare obligations).


Review all course requirements in the time schedule and syllabus (if possible) prior to registering for a course. If you are unsure whether you should register for a course because of potential conflicts with listed fieldtrips, contact the instructor prior to the start of the course.

Notify the instructor as soon as possible if there’s a potential impediment to your participation in a fieldtrip.

If an alternative assignment is required, communicate any time and/or travel restrictions to your instructor as early as possible in the process.

Fieldtrip Acknowledgment of Risk Forms

The University is responsible for providing a reasonably safe environment and warning of known risks. Sponsoring departments have a duty to know as much as reasonably possible about the inherent risks of an activity and to advise participants in advance regarding those risks. Each student fieldtrip participant must sign a Fieldtrip Acknowledgement of Risk Form. See UW Risk Services for sample forms:

One form is adequate for multiple fieldtrips within a course. It is the instructor’s responsibility to ensure that all students fill out and return this form. Signed waiver liability forms should be retained for 6 years. Check with your administrator regarding your departments protocols.

Use of Resources by Non-Students

The College of the Environment does not allow individuals who are not registered for a course to engage in course activities, including field trips, unless they are an integral part of the learning experience (such as relevant content experts), part of a documented student need (such as disability accommodation) or the instructor(s) have given their written authorization logged with the department chair or school director.  In the case of nonregistered minors, participation in field trips for purpose of child care is strictly forbidden.

According to Washington State Ethics Laws, anyone who is not a UW student cannot use any resources paid for by state funds, including tuition, course fees, and other departmental funds. Therefore, students bringing non-registered individuals must provide all necessary food, lodging and transportation, and those individuals may not engage in the use of equipment or materials used during the fieldtrip.

Non-registered Children (minors) in the Field

According to University of Washington Policy, children are not authorized to visit laboratories and shops, except as a participant in a formally sponsored tour or educational program, or as the guest and under the supervision of a parent who is a University student, faculty, or staff member. Further, as a matter of general University policy, children of University students, faculty, and staff members are not authorized to be in laboratories or shops on either an attended or unattended childcare basis. For the purposes of this policy “children” refers to minors under 18 years of age who are not students or employees of the University.

For ecology, conservation and other courses providing skills training outdoors, the field is synonymous with the laboratory. Therefore, non-registered minors may not accompany students during the learning portion of any field trip. If minors accompany a student on a field trip, they must be securely lodged off-site of the actual work area.

UW Vehicles

University of Washington policy states that family, spouses, children, friends, and acquaintances of faculty, staff, and students are not authorized to be drivers or passengers of UW vehicles unless they are employees or contractors of the University or are registered as a volunteer on a University project or program.

Therefore, students bringing non-registered individuals on field trips must provide alternate transportation. Arrangements for outside agency vehicle rentals can be made through Fleet Services.

Protecting the Learning Experience of All Students

In no case can non-registered individuals interfere with the working/learning experience of any students registered for the class, including those students who they are accompanying. All students must be able to devote their time and attention to the field trip experience, and must be able to remain focused on the work and alert at all times.