Across the nation, field trips are being eliminated from school district’s budgets. Teachers are restricted by the pressures from districts to show curricular results and to cover content in classrooms leaving little time for out-of-school excursions.
The logistics of test schedules, finding a substitute teacher, bus and fuel costs, and balancing curriculum needs with hands-on activities often leaves teachers overwhelmed. Field trips are often viewed as “fluff” or extra-curricular activities and, therefore, are easy line items to cut.
However, teachers and students advocate – and studies indicate – that field trips are a key component of school instruction; they broaden the educational experience and make a subject more relevant.
Students might be good at reciting and remembering things but they often don’t make the connection unless they experience it first hand. Field trips connect the dots for students by providing real experiences related to all content areas.
Field trips enrich and expand the curriculum, strengthen observation skills by immersing children into sensory activities, increase children’s knowledge in a particular subject area and expand children’s awareness of their own community. And everyone you speak with has a field trip memory.
What makes a field trip good?
Think of the excursion as a field study, not a field trip. It is a learning experience or experiential learning.
A focus on arts integration and project-based learning teaches students to explore real-world problems and challenges. Active and engaged learning inspires students to obtain a deeper knowledge of the subjects they are studying and allows them to see how ideas are connected. Teaching in such a contextual manner promotes collaboration, critical thinking and knowledge retention.
Often teachers look to the arts and cultural organizations of their community for field trip ideas: museums, zoos, science centers, and natural areas. Performing arts bring the page to the stage and can also offer a lesson in theater etiquette.
In addition to the traditional venues, teachers may choose sites for real world experiences to encourage students to apply what they’ve learned to something relevant in their life. For example, children visiting a construction site can return to the classroom and design their own homes, businesses, and other architectural structures.
Visiting a college or university campus introduces the dream of higher education; college students can act as the tour guides, show dorm rooms, cafeterias, and study halls, while providing mentorship to the younger student.
The best field trips can bring two seemingly unrelated worlds together.
Children from large cities may not understand a math equation about livestock, crops, and the other staples of the rural experience because the students focus on the vocabulary, get confused, and skip the question.
Students in a rural community are often ignorant of urban and suburban terminology. Subway stops, fares, escalators, HOV lanes…these oft-used terms placed in a math test question can block the main idea and prevent a student from answering.
Sometimes state exams include questions that do not bridge the gap between rural and urban students.
A well-designed field trip can bring it all together: combine two or more subjects while offering a variety of learning styles and intelligences, integrate the arts, encourage low-income and English language learner students to make connections between community resources and opportunities and their family and culture.
These experiences allow all participating students to achieve a higher academic performance in all subject areas – not just the arts.
Kids need this vital component of school instruction, if not only to improve test scores, but to feel, see, touch, and even taste the real world around them. And that’s something you can only get from a field trip.