School field trips

Growing up in southeastern Virginia, there were many school field trip opportunities that could be seen within a day: Williamsburg, Jamestown, Yorktown, Civil War battlefields, the Chesapeake Bay. In second grade we took a train trip of only 20 miles (32 km) but that obviously made such a positive impression that years later it remains my (our) favorite mode of transportation. When I first moved to Chicago there was a travel agency that specialized in student travel to Europe. The manager was a high school history teacher who knew first-hand how important it was to immerse his students in the topics that they were learning by visiting the places that they were studying. It’s one thing to read about the French Revolution and something entirely different to travel to Paris to stand on the site of the Bastille or to touch the walls of the Conciergerie where Marie-Antoinette was held prior to her execution. Now a university study has measured the value of field trips and lends support to what that teacher knew all along.

Dordogne river village, La Roque Gageac

Johns Hopkins University was one of the sponsors of the study called, “An Experimental Evaluation of Culturally Enriching Field Trips” that co-author Jay Greene said found “significant educational benefits” to these extracurricular activities. There were 1000 elementary school students involved and those that participated in the excursions were better behaved in class, had fewer absences, and had higher year-end grades than the control group that stayed back at their schools. Those benefits carried forward into middle school when those same children were tested again. The author concludes that the results also confirm that those who go on “culturally enriching field trips are more likely to be tolerant and eager to visit the arts again in the future.”

Bill and I have long maintained that we would have retained European history better if we had traveled here during high school and/or college. For example, while I had a general idea of what the word “surrealism” meant, after spending a morning last November at the Salvador Dalí museum in Figueres, Spain, there’s now no doubt in my mind!

View from Chateau de Ranton

We see a lot of student groups in our travels and although they can seem a bit unruly while waiting outside a museum, art gallery, or historic monument, they are almost always fascinated by what they discover inside with the help of their teacher and tour guide. Like those kids, we too share in the excitement of walking across a 2000-year-old aqueduct, photographing the water lily garden that Monet painted, climbing to the top of Mont-Saint-Michel, or returning to that 2nd grader’s first train ride although that’s now at 300 kilometers per hour!

Photo notes: The featured photo across the top is at the Abbey Fontevraud in the Loire Valley and in the first paragraph is Notre-Dame in Paris.

9 thoughts on “School field trips

    1. Yes, Terry, we did indeed visit the abbey. I remember being in awe standing next to the soaring, stark white limestone columns of the interior. Well worth the trip.


      1. Argh, a missed opportunity. We live 10 km from the Abbey in Saumur. Would have enjoyed sharing a coffee or glass wine. Peut-etre le prochaine fois.

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      2. We would have loved that; unfortunately our visit, and the featured photo, were in 2004 😱 but now that we know that you’re in Saumur, as you said, “next time”, for sure!


  1. Hi Bob, I entirely endorse your view on the value of field trips and this post should encourage us all to be more tolerant when we stumble across a boisterous crowd of young visitors.
    However I do have a vivid memory of a school trip from Northern Ireland to Scotland when I was a schoolboy to visit the cottage of the poet Robbie Burns. It was a long journey by ferry and bus but we arrived outside the bard’s former abode to find sadly that our teacher was unaware it was closed on a Wednesday. We sat outside in the bus in pouring rain for half an hour, paid a brief visit to a nearby airport to soften our disappointment and returned home. I don’t think my parents got a refund, and said teacher shall remain nameless.
    So I can only add the caveat that a well planned field trip is definitely an educational bonus! Hope all well, Gary

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    1. You’re right, Gary, we all could use a reminder, from time to time, to be more tolerant. On your schoolboy visit to Scotland I can’t help but wonder if some of your classmates might have enjoyed the airport stop more than going inside the Burns cottage after all 🤔😁


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