What Happened to Field Trips?

I am a Board member of Creative Many (formerly Artserve) which is an arts and culture economic development organization in Michigan. It is a fantastic organization with a diverse group of Board members that, for the most part, represent different aspects of the art community. We recently held our annual Board retreat which allowed many of us the opportunity to interact with one another on a variety of topics. For me, it was a great to be able to participate in dialogue concerning the direction of the organization.

During our daylong retreat, one of the Board members made a comment which stuck with me the rest of the day. It was a comment that resonated and I felt warranted a blog entry. As we talk about advocating for the arts, he commented about the current demise of field trips as compared to when he was a youth.

It certainly is a scary and realistic thought. Honestly, I do not know to what extent this is true or false as it is represented around the country. In reading some articles online, it certainly exists. This is truly sad to me and I wish it was a non-issue. I even read one article that the field trip is “an incentive for good behavior or good grades”. Really? Enrichment has been replaced by incentives. The field trip has been diminished to the dangling of a carrot in front of the rabbit?

imagesField trips were a part of my youth. Sure, I will be honest, when I was a kid I looked forward to them because it got me out of the classroom – I would expect most children thought the same way. However, the trips were significant. It was part of the curriculum, not an incentive. We did not travel to the amusement park or arcade, we visited the museums, zoo, nature and art centers.

We learned about dinosaurs by looking at models of them and we learned about electricity by creating static electricity. Nature was understood by looking at nature, not a book (What a novelty!) I even remember sitting in an old classroom that Abraham Lincoln once used at Greenfield Village for a full day to experience what children over 100 years ago experienced.

The advantages of field trips for our children are numerous and to me — obvious. Hands-on learning or just experiences of other neighborhoods and environments are more beneficial and create memories for our children.

Sadly, doing an online search of articles on the decline of field trips is plentiful on the web. These articles incorporate several statistics which give legitimacy to the claims that the field trips are in jeopardy. For example, the Field Museum in Chicago used to have over 300,000 students each year and now, they are below 200,000.

The increased decline of this type of invaluable experience, the rapid decay our art museums and other cultural icons will face in the years ahead. I feel these field trips offer the first glimpse of cultural for our children and if they can not experience it as a child – will they ever as an adult?

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