In a 2012‒13 survey we conducted of nearly 500 Arkansas teachers, those who had been teaching for at least 15 years were significantly more likely to believe that the primary purpose of a field trip is to provide a learning opportunity, while more junior teachers were more likely to see the primary purpose as “enjoyment.” If schools are de-emphasizing culturally enriching field trips, has anything been lost as a result?
Surprisingly, we have relatively little rigorous evidence about how field trips affect students.
The school field trip has a long history in American public education.
For decades, students have piled into yellow buses to visit a variety of cultural institutions, including art, natural history, and science museums, as well as theaters, zoos, and historical sites.
Within each pair, we randomly assigned which applicant would be in the treatment group and receive a tour that semester and which would be in the control group and have its tour deferred.
We administered surveys to 10,912 students and 489 teachers at 123 different schools three weeks, on average, after the treatment group received its tour.Not all school groups could be accommodated right away.So our research team worked with the staff at Crystal Bridges to assign spots for school tours by lottery.Museums across the country report a steep drop in school tours.For example, the Field Museum in Chicago at one time welcomed more than 300,000 students every year. Between 20, Cincinnati arts organizations saw a 30 percent decrease in student attendance.With field trips, public schools viewed themselves as the great equalizer in terms of access to our cultural heritage.Today, culturally enriching field trips are in decline.Crystal Bridges is the first major art museum to be built in the United States in the last four decades, with more than 50,000 square feet of gallery space and an endowment in excess of 0 million.Portions of the museum’s endowment are devoted to covering all of the expenses associated with school tours.The student surveys included multiple items assessing knowledge about art as well as measures of critical thinking, historical empathy, tolerance, and sustained interest in visiting art museums.Some groups were surveyed as late as eight weeks after the tour, but it was not possible to collect data after longer periods because each control group was guaranteed a tour during the following semester as a reward for its cooperation.