By Zach Lanning
School field trips, a concept that many are familiar with from their childhood, have been slowly fading from curriculums across the country over the last decade. A survey conducted by the American Association of School Administrators found that more than half of schools eliminated planned field trips for the 2010-2011 school year. Reasons cited for keeping kids in the classroom range from the undue financial burden created by field trips, as well as the difficult safety challenges posed by traveling with a group of school children, to claims that less time in the classroom leads to worse performance on standardized testing.
But there are many who advocate for the importance of the educational field trip and decry its removal from educators’ toolboxes. Studies have found field trips can help improve students’ critical thinking abilities, as well as information retention and appreciation for history and culture. To that end, certain groups have taken the initiative to try and help schools cover the burgeoning costs of these educational trips.
Field Trip New Jersey, a program started in January by the Community Foundation of New Jersey and the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, has already awarded more than $45,000 in grants to schools across the state supporting educational field trips. Eighty-three schools received grants of up to $700 to help students in under-served communities travel to culture sites, historic landmarks, nature preserves and science institutions in New Jersey, as well as college campuses throughout the Mid-Atlantic region.
According to the Community Foundation of New Jersey, more than 150 applications were submitted after initial announcement of these grants, which shows a tremendous need for more grants of this nature. The Community Foundation of New Jersey and Dodge are aiming to raise an endowed, dedicated fund of $2 million to continue to offer $50,000 in grants annually through Field Trip New Jersey.
“We couldn’t be more thrilled to award these grants to help bring learning to life,” said Chris Daggett, president of the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation. “Field trips add a whole new dimension, making learning fun while also deepening students’ educational experience. All of our students deserve these opportunities.”