Where have all the field trips gone?
Some of the best memories I have from school never occured in the classroom at all. They happened at the Trenton city library, the firehouse, a trip to Fischer-Body in Hamilton, Ohio to see Smokey and the Bandit cars put together. <Okay, I just seriously dated myself there.> As a youngster and even teenager, my mostly rural school gave us many opportunities to go and find out about our world by taking field trips. Later, as a teacher myself, one of my more favorite times of year was spring, because we would take all the 8th graders to downtown Cincinnati to watch a series of one-act plays at the Cincinnati’s historical Taft Theatre. Sure sometimes the kids are loud and there are always a few knuckleheads that don’t get it, but most all walked away with great memories and an appreciation for the arts. Now though, I don’t hear about many field trips anymore. My understanding of the issue is that it boils down to three main obstacles: 1) Money 2) Moola and 3) Bling.
School budgets are being slashed nationwide. I recently read this great article from Edutopia by Amy Standen on this same subject. In her post she cites some other disturbing statistics.
In Iowa, according to a 2003 National Education Association report, 75 percent of districts cut back on field trips or asked parents to pay for them. That year, in Michigan, Kentucky, and Missouri, many schools eliminated field trips altogether.
Some schools have sought to fund their field trips through private means. The ones that have been most successful have been highly affluent areas. For many middle and lower-class economic areas though, the opportunities are much more rare. Regardless of the socio-economic background, there are less field trips these days. The ones that do happen are usually reserved for Science and Math. That’s the big push these days. If you’re a social studies teacher, you might have to put off any grandiose ideas of taking kids to Gettysburg or Washington DC. Forget the plan to visit the local art museum too while you are at it. That doesn’t set to well with me. I hope it doesn’t with you either.
While virtual fieldtrips can be uber-cool and helpful, they can’t replace the opportunity to take a REAL field trip. Thankfully, there are people and organizations out there who are trying to step in and help schools fund field-trips. Just today, I came across Field Trip Factory. This organization helps you to locate field trips in your area and has some neat resources for finding funds for busing and such (here and here). Certainly, there are many more websites and organizations like this. I’d really like to call you to respond with any that you come across as a comment.
For the sake of my children (I’ve got 3 ankle-biters) and the thousands upon thousands of others nationwide, don’t be satisfied with diminished opportunity. Let’s work together to find ways to get kids out of the class, into their communities and world. Let’s not rob our next generation the power of in-person, real-live, you-are-there field trips.