When budget cuts come through the local school system, field trips are among the first activities on the chopping block. Students today don't go on nearly as many field trips as students went on 20 or 30 years ago. The economic impact is the reason most often given for cutting back on field trips, but eventually the issue must be raised as to whether saving a little money is as important as denying children the real advantages that field trips offer.
Rising gasoline prices have put the kibosh on a great many field trips. In many towns, and especially bigger cities, it can cost the school district a bundle just to get a couple of classes from the school to the site of the field trip. It is far cheaper to show a video or invite an expert in to cover the same material.
Another enormous disadvantage to field trips is the cost of insurance. Parents are essentially placing their children into the hands of bus drivers and school chaperones, and any number of things can happen. Rising insurance costs have created a situation in which schools simply can't afford to go on too many field trips; they are also shortening the distance between the school and the location. This disadvantage has created a mindset in which the field trip often becomes a last resort to instruct students in a way that cannot be adequately accomplished in the classroom.
One of the biggest advantages of a field trip is the opportunity to get hands-on education. A field trip may offer the opportunity for the kind of expert information that even the most well-prepared teacher cannot afford. In addition, the ability to see and touch things that cannot be seen or touched inside a classroom can bring to life concepts that remain abstract through other traditional means of learning.
One of the most underestimated advantages of the field trip is inspiring careers in impressionable students. Nothing in the classroom can capture the imagination of a young student more than seeing work in action. A field trip can become a secret weapon for getting students interested in factories or businesses that may be hurting due to an exodus of the population. A trip to nearly any locale is likely to get at least a few students considering future career potential.
Timothy Sexton is an award-winning author who started writing in 1994. He has written on topics ranging from politics and golf to nutrition and travel, and his work appears online for Zappos.com, Disaboom and MOJO, among others. He has also done work for "Sherlock Holmes and Philosophy." He holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of West Florida.