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Lesson 6.10

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

Take me out on a field trip…

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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 inspire 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.

Field trips can:

  • Provide real experiences related to subjects of study
  • Enrich and expand the curriculum
  • Strengthen observation skills by immersing a child in sensory activities
  • 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)

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. Additional resources can be found on the Department of Education's site and the Davis Farm to School program site.

Overcoming Obstacles to Field Trips

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. They require adult supervision, transportation, and advance planning, issues that are addressed in the state Education Code. 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.

Another 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.

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.

Updated July 2017

Review

According to the information about field trips presented in this lesson, which of the following statements is TRUE?

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Questions & Comments

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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.
©2003-2017 Jeff Camp
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