I remember a few great field trips from back in the day. There was at least one trip to the zoo. It seems there were a few trips across the border. I recall having the chance to visit a school we actively corresponded with in Ontario, when I was in eighth grade. How cool it was to meet pen pals in person! This of course was a long time before Skype or Facetime. Then there was the whale watch and an incredible trip to Cape Cod.
I was very fortunate for these experiences. My children’s school district has been fantastic in this department! From taking in plays and apple orchards to city trips to see downtown Buffalo and the Albright Knox, there have been great opportunities. In high school, students are given the chance to go to Washington, D.C. There was even a European trip that occurred this past spring, for eligible students. While I am not sure what occurs with the older grades, our school’s PTA has provided financial assistance for some of these trips. Yes, our children have been fortunate!
Unfortunately, there are many districts that have nixed field trips from their curriculum. Whether it is because of financial constraints or philosophical ones, not all students get to experience the fun and learning rewards of a field trip. This is a true loss of experience for so many! For those who do get to take a field trip, the face of them may have changed. There has been a movement away from trips to cultural institutions, to ones that are more fun in nature and scope, i. e. an amusement park, a movie theatre. (Though I have seen the use of both fun types of trips for educational pursuits—physics studies, historical movies). Field trips are seen as a reward for hard work for some districts, as opposed as an increased chance to enhance and contribute to greater learning.
The educational website “Education Next” examines this issue in the article “The Educational Value of Field Trips.” It shares the results of a study that was done to measure the true value of field trips to enriching places ( museums, zoo, art galleries). In short, it found tremendous value for rural students and students of lesser economic means (but really all students) in building cultural savvy and appreciation for art, boosting critical-thinking skills, allowing students to increase historical empathy, and helping students display higher levels of tolerance. Whether it is a budget decision or a philosophical one that sees field trips as unnecessary frills, perhaps it is time for education leaders in Washington and Albany to really think again…..