Field Trips, Testing and the Economy

Over at the Instructify blog, Rebeccah Haines has started an interesting discussion about testing and museums: Now Museum, Now You Don’t.  Rebeccah points to an NPR article that among other things states:

So the curators at the Field got serious about designing field trips to include skills that kids will be tested on in school: They started including relevant math equations in archaeology exhibits, and added timelines to historical exhibits.

The NPR story describes how many museums are being forced to tailor their exhibits to State Standards in an effort to continue drawing in schools. Depending on the way this happens I think this can be a good and bad thing.

On first blush, I would say this is not a bad thing. If our State Standards are aligned to National Standards as they should be, and our museums have great exhibits, there should be no trouble correlating those exhibits to available Standards.  The problem comes when schools or districts do not support trips to museums when those Standards do not match perfectly.  Just because a museum features exhibits which might fit best in 8th grade should not be cause to exclude 7th grade field trips to said museum.

The other problem occurs when museums exclude exhibits because they do not align with local standards. Due to the shear magnitude of knowledge available, not everything falls neatly into a limited set of Standards.  This does not mean we should increase the number of Standards to fit every new piece of knowledge either. The current climate of education in the United States values breadth of knowledge over depth of knowledge.  In the long run, I fear this will lead to shallow knowledge for our students, however, that is not the focus of this post.

Another comment from the NPR article:

Cynthia Moreno…knows teachers are careful about scheduling field trips, and she says her museum is constantly evolving exhibits to lure them in.

I totally understand the comment about teachers being careful to schedule field trips.  Due to the downturn in the economy many areas have been instructed to minimize the “economic burden” on families by limiting field trips, school supplies, or any other “less necessary” educational endeavors.  This is a disservice to our students.  As Rebeccah accurately points out:

For some kids, a school field trip is the only time they will ever get to go to a museum, an aquarium, or a play. Field trips expose students to a world beyond the classroom, a world where regular people are learning, and where they can focus on their own interests.

Here’s an interesting thing to ponder…as many schools move to incorporate more technology, videoconferencing is becoming an increasing focus.  Many of the great available videoconferences have similar costs to local field trips.  I wonder which would get approved first: an $8 per student field trip or at $240 videoconference for 30 students at a time?

Links

Museum Field Trips Tailored To Teach To The Test

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3 Responses

  1. You know that I will incorporate technology in every way possible, but I am afraid of using it as a reason to replace some things that are truly intangible. We took our 4th graders to Raleigh this year from our rural little town. As much as they were in awe of the museums and resources, they were taken aback by the 8 lane highways, by having Chic-fil-a for lunch, by having to whisper in the museums and the moments of awe felt while standing in the shadow of a memorial to our state’s veterans. These things can’t be replaced by a virtual experience. We must remember that these trips have never been wholly about the academics. To be honest, I hope the field trips stay.

  2. Re-reading my post, I’m not sure I made myself clear in the last paragraph. I didn’t intend to imply that videoconferences “should” replace field trips. I just wondered if some folks who oppose the “extraneous” spending on field trips would champion the same spending on videoconferences. I may be completely off base and the exact opposite would happen. I fully believe that field trips should be taken. I continue to be amazed at the lengths teachers have to go to in planning field trips, determining and explaining the “educational value” of the trip, filling out paperwork, securing chaperons who have been properly background checked, etc, etc. It is almost as if the field trips are being discouraged in the first place, which leads the museums to force relevance on their exhibits.

  3. I think it will have to be a viable solution in times when we have mileage limits and time restraints. I am afraid, though, that parents will continuing to foot the bill for these experiences – as if it were still an off-campus trip. At the same time, maybe this will make virtual trips take a step the next level of interactivity and graphic availability.

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