A Comparison between Countries
For the past few months, something about our education system has been truly bugging me. And it’s not just that I know we need to begin transforming it and molding it to better fit the future of education for our children. Yes, that’s definitely part of it, but there’s something else, and I think I’ve finally figured out what it is.
Earlier this year I participated in a Study Abroad program to Lacoste, France for two months and it was amazing. Despite the rigorous course work and shortened amount of time to get it all done (I went from being on a ten week quarter to an 8 week one in France), we took time out of our studies to go out and visit places all over France. A few of the places we went were big cities like Nîmes, Lyon, and Paris, and it dawned on me over time that when we went to these places I would see other school groups out and about taking field trips and going to places like museums and historic buildings for educational learning.
Outside one of the main entrances for the Louvre
At first I just smiled and laughed, particularly at the groups that roamed around dressed in the same shirts with the school’s name on them or matching big blue parkas (yes, I’m totally serious about that last one), and then I began to realize that these kids were from all over the world. I started noticing that many of the kids were British, or Japanese, or Korean, or even Indian. There were also kids from other places in France that were taking a trip to see these incredible places. That is when it dawned on me. That is when I actually realized how few field trips Americans take for educational purposes.
After giving you Step 1 of getting transformative education into the classrooms in my previous post, I’m now going to give you Step 2. Except Step 2 to employing transformative education in our classrooms is by taking kids out of them.
Inside the Louvre
Step 2: Stepping Out of the Classroom to Transform Education
Before I go into this, I’d like to say that I do know being able to take field trips varies greatly across the country because of factors like how much access or funding a school has. For example, if you’re an inner-city school in New York, New York, you’re probably far more likely to go to the Modern Museum of Art than a school from the country in West Virginia. However, the point here is to make taking field trips more accessible to every child and not just the few who are lucky enough to live in certain places.
Getting kids out of the classroom is actually a huge part of transforming the way they learn. Think about it: taking field trips allows kids to be able to get up and walk around, explore museums and historic sites, learn about subjects directly from docents or information boards on the field trip, and, most importantly, keeps them engaged in learning and providing them with a small bit of wonder to promote wanting to actually learn.
One of my favorite things that happened while I was in elementary school is that we would pretty frequently get to go to our state museum. I loved it. I loved being able to get out of the classroom and roam around and do hands-on activities at the museum to show me how things work. Yet, I was one of those fortunate kids who lived in the capital of their state and thus the museum was regularly and easily accessible for my school.
So how do we make it possible for every child to have the ability to go on field trips? We use a portion of the funds going to schools to be strictly for field trips. Simple, right? Wrong. Unfortunately, along with many other problems, one of the problems with our current education system is how funding is given out on a school-to-school basis.
Did you know that pretty much all funding to schools is based on how much local taxes the district receives to allocate to their schools? Yes, part of it does come from the government, but most of the funding comes from local taxes, which can cause a huge inequality rift in the education system. If you’re a kid who lives in a poor district, then you’re not going to get nice things or healthy meals, or maybe even updated books. The division between poor and rich districts is drastic, and yet no one wants to talk about that rift. I, however, intend to address this directly in a later post.
While that is unfortunately an underlying cause for many of the problems our education system has, it is not the topic of this post so I’m going to steer this back to field trips. If we were able to set aside money for field trips alone in schools I can almost guarantee that kids would want to come to class and learn more, even if they’re just going to class so they can get to the next field trip, it’s going to make an impact on them.
If we can truly integrate field trips into our curriculum across the nation kids would not only want to learn more, but they would be able to think more critically about topics by using and understanding the purpose of research outside of the classroom. Field trips are fun, yes, but when you take a child on a field trip you’re taking them to a place where they can learn from experts and be hands-on with what they’re learning, and we all know that transformative education is all about that hands-on learning.
If you’re a teacher, administrator, or just an educator in general reading this right now, I urge you to help be a part of the change in getting these kids out of the classroom. If there’s not enough money in the funding then get creative: have a bake sale or work with kids to put on a talent show where people can pay a small fee to get in. If you can do anything to help make that happen, then I know those kids will be thanking you in the years to come. Their future is in our hands, so let’s make this count.
Me with one of my favorite paintings by Degas inside the Musée d’Orsay. By the way, I really only found out about Degas (who is now my favorite painter) because of taking field trips to art museums when I was in middle school.