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Everyone has a field trip memory. They are the highlight of the school year for many children and they have the potential to provide all students, especially those from financially disadvantaged homes, with stimulating experiences. Field trips may also be the impetus for continued learning and can bring what is taught in the classroom to life. A visit to the birthplace of a hero or inventor may even provide a child with the inspiration for career choices and encourage them to strive for a higher level of achievement.
Different academic subjects can be studied simultaneously during field trips and the understanding of various concepts is often enhanced through hands-on experiences and exploration. Field trips can:
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. Additional resources can be found on the Department of Education's site and the Davis Farm to School program site.
Take me out on a field trip / Take me out of the school / Show me some things that I haven't seen / Learning outside is so cool.
Field trips can often be costly, require supervision, transportation, and advance planning, issues that are addressed in the state Education Code. They are not, however, out of the question even when budgets are tight. Institutions typically charge a per student 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 for free admission for school classes. In addition, funding from parent associations, fund-raisers and community organizations can make field trips accessible to all students.
Another option is for the field trip to come to the kids. That can take the form of assemblies. 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.
Research on the value of field trips is tough to find, making a 2013 study published by Education Next worth noting. It documents how free field trips to a new art museum contributed to a variety of student learning outcomes, particularly for rural and low-income students.
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