School field trips are on the decline in American education for many reasons. Schools are making tough choices about how to spend scarce resources, are spending more time in class preparing for high-stakes tests and have begun using field trips as rewards for doing well on those tests. Whereas school field trips used to mean a trip to an art or history museum, now they are more likely to be an amusement park, movie or athletic event.

Researchers at the University of Arkansas have conducted a large randomized-control trial on what students learn from art museums. The report’s authors Jay P. Greene, Brian Kisida and Daniel H. Bowen write:

“We find that students learn quite a lot. In particular, enriching field trips contribute to the development of students into civilized young men and women who possess more knowledge about art, have stronger critical-thinking skills, exhibit increased historical empathy, display higher levels of tolerance, and have a greater taste for consuming art and culture.”

The Educational Value of Field TripsCrystal Bridges; Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art; School Tour © 2013 Stephen Ironside/Ironside Photography Bo Bartlett – “The Box” – 2002 * Oil on Linen * 82 x 100 – Photographer is Karen Mauch The school field trip has a long history in American public education.

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  • Latonia Baker

    Nice link to an interesting and telling article. I agree it is very important to continue to have field trips in our education system. Excursions to places that allow students to connect what they are taught in class to something tangible outside of the classroom will not only help develop their critical thinking skills but also enrich their learning experiences. At iD Tech Academies, we try to take our teens on an industry related tour that bridges what they are learning in class to what is happening in the real world. We also have them come prepared with a few questions to ask professionals working in that studio. It then becomes a refreshing and different approach to learn outside of the traditional teacher-student ways.


Katrina Schwartz

Katrina Schwartz is a journalist based in San Francisco. She's worked at KPCC public radio in LA and has reported on air and online for KQED since 2010. She's a staff writer for KQED's education blog MindShift.

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