Can you remember an exciting field trip you enjoyed when you were a kid? Probably so, because field trips often create exciting memories for children. The excitement of being out of the classroom for a day to learn, engage, and explore is something that parents and educators alike can appreciate. In the past, schools often footed the bill for field trips because they were understood as an important part of a child’s education. Children learn not only from core subjects, but also benefit from experiencing first hand art, music, and culture, which helps develop them into well-rounded citizens in their communities.
In recent years, however, school field trips are in decline. Many museums and cultural institutions across the US are reporting drops in field trip attendance. There are a variety of factors related to this change, from financial pressures to a greater emphasis on student academic performance. While there is little evidence available on how the decline in field trips has affected students and student learning, a study done on The Educational Value of Field Trips “presented the first large-scale randomized-control trial designed to measure what students learn from school tours of an art museum.”
While many discoveries were observed, students actually learned a great deal more than might have been expected. Although teachers might have had different purposes for the field trips, the study found “enriching field trips contributed to the development of students into civilized young men and women who possess more knowledge about art, have stronger critical-thinking skills, exhibit increased historical empathy, display higher levels of tolerance, and have a greater taste for consuming art and culture.”
Additionally, the study found students from disadvantaged backgrounds benefited the most from the field trips. Rural students (defined as those who live in towns with less than 10,000 residents) had a nearly ⅓ of a standard deviation increase in critical thinking skills. Also, “[s]tudents from high-poverty schools (those where more than 50 percent of students receive free or reduced-price lunches) experience an 18 percent effect-size improvement in critical thinking about art, as do minority students.”
In their supplemental study, researchers found:
At a minimum, we can say that the type of school that chooses to take more field trips to a performing arts center produces benefits for students by increasing their cultural interest and participation as well as changing their values to be more empathetic and tolerant. And given the results of the Crystal Bridges experiment, we have good reason to believe that the field trips themselves played an important role in producing these benefits. Taken together, these two experiments support a consistent and important finding: culturally enriching field trips have significant short-term benefits for students, and those benefits appear to endure over time as the cumulative effect of those experiences.
Field trips develop curiosity, critical thinking, tolerance, and other important skills in children – and let’s be honest, kids LOVE them! Let’s continue to make field trips a priority for students of all ages.
Does your school participate in some amazing field trips? We want to hear all about it! Send us an email at [email protected] – We would love to hear from you!