More than ever, students need their teachers to be strong advocates for the value of experiential learning. To prepare for a discussion with administration about an educational trip, it helps to understand potential concerns and to be prepared to answer challenging questions.
Statistics support the need to make a case for hands-on learning. Unfortunately, a third of districts nationally cut field trips entirely during the 2010-11 school year, according to an American Association of School Administrators survey.
This creates a huge challenge for the dedicated teachers who organize an annual 8th grade trip to Washington, D.C., the Art Department Chair who leads a trip to New York City, and the school Music Directors who take kids around the globe to perform in amazing venues.
And, of course, it denies the kids more than they realize.
To be fair, administrators have a lot of responsibilities. They may need to weigh what seem like conflicting priorities when they’re approached for approval for class trips.
Here are four conflicts that an administrator may perceive and recommendations for how to show the value of your student trip.
1. “Field trips are “extra” opportunities that reduce instructional time.”
The whole point of learning is for the kids to be able to apply what they are learning in the “real world.” Student travel allows kids to build connections between classroom lessons and new places with the guidance of their teachers. This makes instructional time more meaningful.
"There is growing evidence that opportunities to learn outside of school directly affect what is possible inside classrooms, just as what happens in classrooms affects out-of-school learning." according to the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine, August 2015.
There are many ways that school trips can help teachers exceed curriculum standards that are explained in another post called Exceed Curriculum Standards with Your Student Trip.
2. “There is risk and liability.”
This can be easily addressed by using a reputable travel company that assumes liability for the trip. For example, NationsClassroom provides teachers with Terms and Conditions that all participants must sign that release the school, district, and employees from liability. You should be able to share the agreement with your administration.
If you are just starting a tour and you are researching travel companies, be sure to ask for references and follow up with the Better Business Bureau and the Student & Youth Travel Association. Share the company’s background and references with your administration as well.
Prepare your district or building approval forms in advance of a discussion with your administration. They will appreciate that you have thought through the necessary paperwork and requirements.
3. “Financial resources are not available to support the trip.”
Budgets are tight and this is a valid concern. Start by outlining the budget for the field trip on paper. Include all costs, including transportation, admissions, and meals. If you are using a travel company, you should be given a list of inclusions for the price provided.
If you are requesting school funds, inquire about the budget cycle so you know when your request must be submitted.
Also include your plan for fundraising and what portion will be the responsibility of families. Think ahead and share your plan for communicating this information with families.
It also helps to explain how you will support families that are not able to pay for the trip.
You can find tips for fundraising in the article The Price of School Trips and How to Explain the Value.
4. “The teaching staff needs to be in the building.”
If you ask the kids how they want to learn from their teachers, many will say that they want teachers to take them outside of the classroom to learn in new environments.
In an article about the “Local Control Funding Formula” in California, a school district in Vallejo asked teachers, parents, and students for input about the allocation of state funds, a requirement of the state policy.
According to Superintendent Ramona Bishop, the kids wanted opportunities to learn from their teachers in new places.
“It was all about, ‘take us places where you take your kids, Dr. Bishop,’” she said. Students listed museums, college campuses and military bases as examples of where they might want to go,” according to The Hechinger Report.
Explain to administration your plan for enriching your classroom lessons with the resources only available at the places you will visit. You also may want to explain the other ways your students will learn and grow while on the trip. There are a few ideas in this post, “3 Unexpected Things ‘Your Kids’ Will Learn on a School Trip.”
Working through the approval is more challenging than ever, but keep the faith.
To learn more about exciting school trip destinations, please browse our tours.