PROVO, Utah (ABC4) – Remember being in elementary or middle school and being able to leave the classroom for a bit to go on a field trip?
Was there anything better than missing school to get out of the building and do something outside of the routine?
As it turns out, new research shows that heading out on a field trip may be beneficial for growing young minds. Working with teams from Johns Hopkins University and the Heritage Foundation, researchers from Brigham Young University (BYU) found that students who participle in multiple field trips in a school year have higher test scores, are better behaved, and have a greater appreciation for the arts and culture.
The study’s findings were surprising for the lead author, BYU professor of educational leadership Heidi Erickson, who hypothesized that field trips wouldn’t negatively affect test results but admits she didn’t see an increase in scores coming.
Erickson and her colleagues figured that field trips are usually taken when teachers and principals are confident that the seat time in classrooms is adequate to prepare for testing. What they learned is that taking the time to bring students to an art museum, a live theater performance, or a symphony concert is not only unlikely to harm test scores, but it can also raise them.
“We thought, if we’re not going to find negative impacts on student achievement, you can take some time out of the classroom to go on these culturally enriching field trips, and see other benefits, but maybe not test scores, but you’re not going to hurt test scores,” Erickson explains to ABC4.com. “And then we got into it and started finding positive test score impacts and positive course grades as well.”
The study was done by randomly assigning fourth and fifth-grade students from 15 different schools in Atlanta to participate in three ‘culturally-enriching’ field trips in a school year. In the end, researchers found that those students tested better, had fewer behavioral issues, and were better prepared for middle school.
“There might be a couple of reasons for that,” Erickson theorizes. “It might be just school is more exciting to them now, right? You’ve kind of expanded their world through these field trips, they’ve gotten more content knowledge, and now they’re just want to try harder in school, it’s more engaging to them.”
Of course, the type of field trip may make a difference as well. It could be assumed that a trip to an art exhibit may be more impactful to a child’s educational experience than say, a reward-based field trip to the amusement park, but it is difficult to say for sure based on the current research, Erickson states.
What Erickson hopes her work can produce is a greater appreciation by schools and policymakers as to the importance of getting out of the classroom every once in a while. She states that as a consequence of the pandemic, field trips have become less and less common. As officials may feel the pressure to get the normal learning process up and running in future years, field trips may be lost in favor of more classroom time.
That could be a mistake, Erickson says.
“You could take time away and you can go on culturally enriching field trips and you’re not going to harm academic achievement, you might even help it,” she states. “You’re also going to allow your students this window to a broader world, that develops a whole variety of concepts of self and the desire to investigate new themes.”
In other words, get those permission slips signed and pack a light lunch. Field trips aren’t just fun, they’re a valuable learning tool, according to research.