It is very easy to make assumptions about the background of students, particularly those students coming into first year.
With Geography, it is likely that students have studied Geography before but their actual exposure to fieldwork can vary enormously. With Environmental Science courses we also cannot guarantee that students have done any fieldwork before (for example, if they studied Chemistry/Physics) and some of international students may not have done any fieldwork before either. I know that in the past we’ve kind of assumed that everyone would rock up with all the gear and be absolutely prepared for what was in store for them in the Peak District in November! This really wasn’t the case.
What we did was put together a kind a virtual guide to the first day. We went up and filmed the area. We included lots of information on the academic side of things and the social side of things but also included guidance on things like the Countryside Code and what the vegetation is like under foot. We covered health and safety considerations so that the students could actually just see where they were going before they actually got there.
This has helped to address a lot of the anxiety that some of the students were feeling and we expanded this into other courses to actually include things like filming of the accommodation blocks, the catering facilities and those things that can cause a lot of stress for some of the students, particularly, those with eating disorders or other mental health conditions. This also set things up so that students could have more meaningful conversations with the module lead/field course leaders about things that particularly concerned them, and we were better able to facilitate that (such as allocating a student an individual room). In addition, our department has invested in some centralised kit for students to borrow, so that financial constraints are less of a concern for students doing fieldtrips.