Michael D. Clark reports:
No one saw it coming at the time, but when then-President George W. Bush came to Butler County in 2002 to sign the historic No Child Left Behind act, he also signed the death warrant for many school field trips.
That sweeping reform act – signed under the national media spotlight at Hamilton High School – mandated standardized testing across America. But it also had the unintended consequence of killing off the traditional field trip for millions of students.
In the decade since, schools have had to spend more classroom time focusing on test-based instruction, leaving less time for field trips.
Toss in a lousy economy during the last several years and chronic budget woes, and the longtime staple of American education is increasingly thrown under the school bus.
To fill the void, more schools are weaving online “virtual field trips” into their classroom curricula. A growing number of Internet sites provide students the opportunity to take photo or video tours from their classrooms to any museum, nature or historical site that offers such online options.
Some sites provide students a 360-degree visual panoramic scope with pop-ups of facts about the site, all controlled by students or teachers from their computers.
But while educators appreciate the low cost and convenient option, they say it pales in comparison to the real thing.
No one keeps track of school field trips – neither Ohio’s nor Kentucky’s state education departments or nationally. But nearly every education veteran and family with schoolchildren during the last decade will tell you they have seen the decline since the sweeping federal reform.
Tim Sullivan, founder of the national parent-teacher organization PTO Today, said it’s a shame.
“I definitely think there were kids who received many first or only (experiences) through field trips,” Sullivan said from the group’s Massachusetts headquarters. “The first or only time seeing a symphony. The first or only time seeing live theater.
“Many kids will still experience those things without field trips, but a significant chunk – those without the means or the support or interest at home – may miss out on those elements for life.”
Veteran Lakota West High School Latin teacher Sarah Elmore agreed, saying, “I took a lot of trips as a student, but now it’s a rare treat, and it’s sad any time you lose an opportunity to expand a student’s world.”
Posted in: Schools |