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Field Trips: Something of the past or revamped for the future?

I remember it like it was yesterday. Waking up to the smell of spring in the air, packing my “brown bag lunch,” loading up on the big yellow school bus and heading off to the Franklin Institute for yet another walk through the “giant heart” exhibit, or down to Old City Philadelphia to check out Betsy Ross’ house and the Liberty Bell!  Many might consider these destinations nothing more than a Saturday morning outing, but to a fourth grader, it was one of the days you looked forward to all year! There is a lot to be said about having such a vivid memory of those field trips 20 some odd years later.  Being a visual and kinesthetic learner, these outings gave me the opportunity to actually relive history and experiment with science.

Sadly, field trips and educational experiences are becoming something of the past. During the period of 2008 and 2012, field trips were not only on the decline, but were shifting drastically.  Somewhere along the line, field trips took a turn from cultural experiences for all to academic rewards for some.  Field trips to museums, historical monuments and cultural experiences were slowly being replaced with reward outings to Six Flags and Regal Cinemas.  Many blame this on the shortage of funds districts nationwide have been battling.   According to the annual surveys by the American Association of School Administrators (AASA), nearly 30% of school administrators reported eliminating field trips due to state and federal budget cuts between 2008 and 2015.

Some would argue the return of field trips are on the rise, others would argue that curriculum without field trips is becoming the new norm post-recession.  During the 2015-2016 AASA survey, only 12% of administrators surveyed said they have brought back their field trips to 2008 (pre-recession) levels.

Many believe that field trips are on the decline because technology is on the incline.  Schools have started to implement virtual field trips into their curriculum.  Several educators would say the pros outweigh the cons when it comes to virtual field trips as on-site field trips commonly have one specific objective, can be costly, and sometimes are a tough sell to administrators.  Virtual field trips, on the other hand, cover a vast range of topics and exotic destinations: from inside a NASA space ship to the far depths of the Atlantic Ocean and cost virtually (no pun intended) nothing, are much safer than taking students off campus, and allow students to explore and learn at their own pace in their own style.

Education is about far more than text books and curriculum, it’s about helping youth broaden their horizons and explore different cultures.  Both virtual and on-site field trips give students access to real world lessons and put variety and perspective into learning.  As leaders in education, now more than ever, we need to understand the importance of getting up and out of the classroom!

Justin Furter Event & Meeting Coordinator CustomED

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