Behind the Headline: Children Learn Much from Field Trips That They Can’t Get from Lectures or Textbooks

On Top of the News
Children Learn Much from Field Trips
1/29/14 | Washington Post

Behind the Headline
The Educational Value of Field Trips
Winter 2014 | Education Next

In the Washington Post, Jay Mathews laments the fact that “the field trip, once woven into the American school experience, is in decline.” He describes the results of a randomized experiment by researchers from the University of Arkansas that found measurable benefits for students who took a field trip to an art museum. He notes

The critical-thinking gap between field trip students from rural and high-poverty schools and similar students who didn’t go on the trip was significantly larger than the gap between affluent students who went and affluent students who didn’t go. The disadvantaged kids got more out of the experience because they got relatively less enrichment at home.

Mathews goes on

That reminded me of Rafe Esquith, my field trips guru. Esquith teaches a Los Angeles fifth grade full of low-income Hispanic and Asian children. Long ago he developed a system of taking students to plays, museums, concerts, ball games and other events after careful preparation for the experience… Actor Ian McKellen became an Esquith friend and booster after he noticed at a Los Angeles Shakespeare performance that a group of fifth-graders in the audience was mouthing every word he said. They already knew the play.

In the KIPP charter school network, created by Esquith disciples, each year ends with a week-long trip, the culmination of hours of lessons. In most schools such experiences are rare. They get less encouragement because school leaders think trips take time away from preparing for state exams. But KIPP students do very well on those exams. We need more such experiences, not fewer.

The randomized experiment on the impact of field trips that Mathews describes in his column appears in the Winter 2014 issue of Education Next. Please read “The Educational Value of Field Trips: Taking students to an art museum improves critical thinking skills, and more,” by Jay P. Greene, Brian Kisida, and Daniel H. Bowen.

-Education Next

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