Field Trips – Things of the Past?

For many people, one of the main tenants of education is to expand a student’s world – to show him what exists outside the classroom. Traditionally, field trips have played a big role in taking education beyond school walls, and are often the highlight of a student’s school year. But, with the shift in curricula toward meeting standardized test goals, fewer and fewer resources are devoted to zoo, museum or education- and culture-based outings.

Image courtesy of The Enquirer/Leigh Taylor

In Cincinnati, for instance, arts organizations reported a cumulative 30 percent drop in student attendance from 2002 – when the No Child Left Behind act prompted the shift – to 2007, reports the Cincinnati Enquirer. And in the past 10 years, the city’s two largest professional performance venues have seen approximately a 75 percent decline in visits from schools.

To make up for these trips, some schools have turned to technology. Taking students on “virtual field trips”, teachers bring up websites that provide features like a 360-degree view of a historical site, accompanied by bits of information. Lindsey Schlabach, a sixth-grade teacher notes that, “using virtual tours, Google Earth, Discovery Streaming and other resources has allowed [her class] to ‘travel’ to various parts of the world without having to leave the comfort of [their] classroom.”

While this technology may offer a “trip” to, say, the pyramids that a traditional field trip couldn’t, is it really a replacement for hearing a camel’s snorts up close, or seeing bits of hieroglyphics in real life?

Have your schools noticed a decrease in field trips? How have they compensated?

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