In recent years, schools have seen a decline in field trips. This is in part because of budget cuts to public school funding, partly because of curriculum changes, and partly because of a change in focus. Schools and teachers may think that it's not a big deal for students to miss out on a few field trips. They're just for fun, right? Wrong. Field trips hold immense educational value that transfers over to a student's adult life, value that one cannot readily find in a traditional classroom setting. Learning must take place in all areas of life, including the outside world, for students to grasp the many facets of society, culture, history, art and so on.
There have been several studies done to examine the positive aspects of field trips, to determine if they are truly beneficial to the students. In nearly all areas, the positive value of field trips greatly outweighs the negatives. Field trips connect class lessons to the real world, giving access to culture, history, and art often untaught in school. School trips expose underprivileged students to culture and art as their families might not be able to do so regularly.
With the downturn in the number of nationwide field trips, museums are showing a drastic decrease in attendance. For example, Chicago's Field Museum has shown a 30% decline in student trip admissions over recent years, and Chicago isn't the only one effected. Museums around the country are endeavoring to reach out to students, creating more curriculum based exhibits, offering more guided tours and student activities, teacher resources, etc. in effort to bring in the schools.
So, why not take advantage of it? Because teachers, mainly young junior teachers, are showing a wild change of focus when it comes to field trips. Education Next found that teachers with more than 15 years experience tend to see field trips as enriching, educational experiences whereas their younger counterparts see it as strictly a reward, an enjoyable trip. This is a problem. The change in focus, coupled with budget cuts, is deadly to the practice of field trips which, if done right, are enriching as well as fun. This is what learning should be, ideally, fun and enlightening.
Students across the board learn better when they are having fun, namely on field trips. Education Next also supported a recent study, a fabulous study, which focused on the educational value of field trips in a new art museum in rural Arkansas. This art museum was under high demand for school trips as there had previously been no cultural or artistic venue in the area for schools to enjoy. Education Next's study focused on the areas of education imparted by a guided tour of the facility including: critical thinking, the students' ability to clearly recall details, historical empathy, tolerance, and interest in art museums.
The results were amazingly encouraging. Students from kindergarten to grade 12 showed an increase in all areas, the greatest increase coming from rural public schools and a slightly lower increase from high-poverty schools. Students were able to correctly recall factual information from the guided tour. They showed that they could remember the scene, subjects, and art movements with clarity of a particular painting even weeks later. This is even more impressive when you learn that the students knew that they wouldn't be tested in the classroom on anything taught in the guided tour - they learned on their own and remembered specific details. This showed an encouraging level of value. The tour also showed to increase the students' overall level of observation and they made an increased number of connections in their written essays, showing heightened levels of critical thinking.
Education Next's study was most impressive and highly encouraging for those advocating for more field trips. This showed, statistically, that students gain an enriched learning experience through educational travel and tours. Students who experience out-of-school learning, either with parents or with their class, exhibit more critical thinking skills, more empathy and tolerance, and tend to enjoy the humanities (mainly art and culture) more than they had previously. All of these characteristics, if nurtured, transfer over to adulthood making well-rounded, civilized individuals who are not only able to succeed, but do so with grace, intelligence, and a positive outlook.
If that isn't a reason to take your students on field trips, I don't know what is. From a budget standpoint, field trips don't have to cost a single thing. Depending on where you live, and what grade level the trip is focused on, educational trips can be as simple as a walk through the park, literally. Explore local establishments with young students such as a bakery or a grocery store to see the inner workings; take middle school students to the local fire department, courthouse, or police station to see how local government and civil safety departments help the community; or visit a local college campus with your high school students, arrange a "shadowing" day with local businesses for your students to apprentice, and much more.
The opportunities for learning are endless, and they don't have to be expensive to work wonders on your students' minds and lives. Just keep in mind what Ben Franklin once said, “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” Check out our other blogs on educational travel and field trips to gain more ideas for your students or give us a call to schedule the ultimate educational trip.