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School field trips linked to better student performance

In a new study led by Brigham Young University, researchers have analyzed the impact and value of school field trips. The experts report that students who participate in multiple field trips throughout the school year have better academic performance, higher test scores, and increased cultural conscientiousness.

“Field trips have been non-existent for the last two years, and many cultural institutions like museums and science centers were closed. Schools want to make up learning loss from the pandemic and might feel pressure to sacrifice a well-rounded education for increased seat-time,” said study lead author Professor Heidi Holmes Erickson.

“Field trips might be the first thing to go. Addressing student learning loss is crucial, but schools should be thoughtful in their approach.”

For the investigation, fourth- and fifth-grade students from 15 elementary schools were randomly assigned to participate in three culturally enriching outings during a school year. The students visited an art museum and attended a play and a symphony concert.

The study revealed that students who attended all three field trips scored higher on final exams, received better course grades, and had fewer absences.

“We anticipated that field trips wouldn’t harm test scores. However, we started seeing academic improvements and realized that students who participated in these field trips were doing better in class,” said Professor Erickson. 

“One potential reason for this is that field trips expand students’ world concept and expose them to new ideas. Similarly, students might be more engaged in school thanks to field trips. Students find school more exciting and want to try harder in class.”

According to the researchers, the study provides more evidence that field trips are beneficial not only for academic success but for individual character development as well.

“Parents are very interested in the academic quality of their child’s school, but they’re also interested in the social skills and social engagement habits they develop. Cultural field trips are easy ways to help facilitate both.”

Professor Erickson hopes that this study will be a resource for policymakers and school principals who are interested in improving children’s growth during the children’s school experience. 

“Contrary to practice where schools, facing accountability pressures, trade extracurriculars for increased seat time, we found that there’s no harm to academics by taking time out of the classroom,” said Professor Erickson. “It’s possible to expose students to a broader world and have culturally enriching curriculum without sacrificing academic outcomes, and it may actually improve academic outcomes.”

The study is published in the Journal of Human Resources.

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer

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