You Earned a Ticket!

Which school do you want to support?

Lesson 6.10

Let’s Go!:
What Makes a Field Trip Great?

Do field trip experiences matter? Who pays for field trips?

hero image

Just about everyone has a field trip memory.

Field trips are the memorable highlights of the school experience for many children. Not every field trip is amazing, but they are distinct from the ordinary course of school. They have the potential to provide all students with experiences that stick with them.

Field trips may also inspire continued learning and can bring what is taught in the classroom to life. A visit to the birthplace of a hero or inventor might provide a child with the inspiration to read, draw, write or create.

Field trips can:

  • Provide experiences that bring subjects of study to life
  • Enrich and expand the curriculum
  • Strengthen observation skills
  • Expand a child’s awareness of their own community
  • Serve as a motivational "carrot" for good behavior (some schools do not allow students to participate in a trip if they do not meet expectations).

The decline of field trips

Research about the frequency and impact of field trips is scant, in part because they are thoroughly local and vary massively. A rare study of impact was featured in Education Next, which examined trends and impact at an art museaum in Arkansas. The author found evidence that field trips are in decline. Fewer students are getting fewer experiences outside the classroom.

And that was beforebefore COVID-19.

The pandemic disrupted long-standing field trip traditions, to the mixed emotions of educators. Organizing a field trip is joyful work, but also stressful and difficult. Many schools repeat the same field trips year after year because repetition helps teachers work out the kinks. Where are the bathrooms? How much time does it take to get from here to there? What are the places where students might get lost, or distracted?

Examples of field trips

A field trip can be as simple as taking a group of students out on the school grounds for a nature lesson or as adventurous as a visit to a historical site in another state (though the issues of governing law tend to add complexity). Schools can also contact mobile science labs or groups and individuals who bring history to life in multimedia, live-action presentations. Whether it is a trip to the local zoo, a planetarium, or just a nature walk, children learn about the world and how to interact with others when they leave the classroom environment.

Rather than simply studying about proper nutrition, students can visit a farm and see first-hand how fruits and vegetables are grown and livestock is raised. California’s Farm to School Program connects schools with local farms in an effort to provide educational opportunities related to health and nutrition and with the objective of serving healthy meals in school cafeterias.

Overcoming obstacles to field trips

Field trips can often be costly. They require adult supervision, transportation, and advance planning, issues that are addressed in the state Education Code. Most school boards have set policies that govern field trips. It can be helpful to ask your school district office for a link to the board policies about them.

Institutions typically charge a fee for field trip visits, but not always. For example, the Chabot Space & Science Center has a contractual arrangement with the Oakland Unified School District that provides free admission for school classes. Of course, donations from parent associations, fund-raisers and support from community organizations can help make field trips accessible to all students.

Neither the state nor the Federal government provides funding specifically for field trips. In California, school districts have the power to allocate funding through the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF). If you want funding for a field trip for your school, ask your principal first, then speak with your district office and your school board representatives. You might get lucky and find that some money has already been set aside.

Making field trips simpler

Because old-school style field trips are costly and complex, schools have come up with some creative alternatives. One option is for the field trip to come to the kids, for example as an assembly. Some community organizations, such as museums, are set up to provide speakers at school sites. If an actual trip is out of reach, there are also online field trips that offer a high-tech alternative to loading everyone on the bus. Admittedly, these experiences seemed cooler before the pandemic!

Field trips are not part of the normal conduct of school, and that's why they can have extraordinary impact, if thoughtfully implemented.

Updated July 2017
March 2019
November 2022


Which ONE of the following is TRUE?

Answer the question correctly and earn a ticket.
Learn More

Questions & Comments

To comment or reply, please sign in .

user avatar
Carol Kocivar March 3, 2018 at 5:43 pm
The Impact of Arts-Focused Field Trips on Student Success
Results from a new study examining the long-term effects of students participating in multiple arts-focused field trips shows that students scored significantly higher on standardized tests than students who only attended one field trip.

Arts Focused Field Trips
user avatar
TOBY BLACK January 21, 2020 at 7:22 pm
Interesting results! Engaging students outside of the class makes a difference in class. As someone who has spent a lot of time fundraising for things like field trips, this adds another positive layer to why parent volunteers do what they do :)
user avatar
Jeff Camp - Founder April 5, 2017 at 3:35 pm
Here's another compendium of virtual field trips, for what it's worth. The term virtual field trip seems a little grandiose for what these really are. What's a tour of the Paris sewer system without the stench? (On second thought, maybe virtual can be better than the real thing sometimes...)
user avatar
Albert Stroberg May 1, 2016 at 8:20 pm
55 years later I still remember clearly the trip to the water treatment plant. Ihave been very aware of water usage ever since.
These real-world , and special, events are so valuable.
user avatar
Angelica Manriquez February 29, 2016 at 6:34 pm
I wish we had more money for field trips.
user avatar
Stacey W April 27, 2015 at 10:50 pm
My son's middle school does an annual jogathon, in which students participate within their PE classes. All the money raised goes to fund a field trip (transportation + admission fees) for the 900+ students at the school. In recent years, students have gone to the Museum of Tolerance and the California Science Center. This year, all 7th and 8th graders went to the La Mirada Theatre to see a performance of "The Outsiders." For many students, this was probably their first experience to see a live stage production. Priceless!!!
user avatar
GG April 23, 2015 at 12:39 pm
Fieldtrips are vital in schools. One reason students do not get the opportunity to explore and learn on a field trip is due to costs. The costs for transportation stops many schools and students from these experiences.
©2003-2024 Jeff Camp
Design by SimpleSend

Sharing is caring!

Password Reset

Change your mind? Sign In.

Search all lesson and blog content here.

Welcome Back!

Login with Email

We will send your Login Link to your email
address. Click on the link and you will be
logged into Ed100. No more passwords to

Share via Email

Get on Board!
Learn how California's School System works so you can make a difference.
Our free lessons are short, easy to read, and up to date. Each lesson you complete earns a ticket for your school. You could win $1,000 for your PTA.

Join Ed100

Already a member? Login

Or Create Account