Education Letter to the Editor

Retail Field Trips, Seen From Three Perspectives

October 19, 2004 2 min read

To the Editor:

In response to your front-page article “New Breed of Retail Field Trips Emerging,” (Oct. 6, 2004):

In the suburb of Philadelphia where my family lives, there are a huge number of museums, zoos, and historical sites that welcome school groups. As nonprofit organizations, part of their mission is to educate the public. They develop programs specifically for schools that are tailored to grade level and run by guides trained to work with students. But while doing a superb job of providing fun and educational hands-on experiences for children, these organizations also are dependent on the revenue that school groups bring in to them.

Organizations like museums and zoos have far more to offer students than retail establishments, whose sole purpose in hosting field trips is to increase the bottom line. They are not educational institutions; they only use the field-trip format as a veneer to justify their drive to bring in new customers. Children are inundated with commercials in many media. Parents have a hard enough time of making well-reasoned purchases for and with their children, without the added burden of saying no to Petco or any other retail operation’s pressure to buy its products.

I advocate more supervision from the school administration in the choice of field trips, what activities go on during a field trip, and how the students will be supervised. A set of guidelines should be established to help teachers choose appropriate field activities, and it should be reviewed by the school board.

Cathy Taylor

Glenside, Pa.

To the Editor:

I taught a middle school “opportunity” class for students who were having trouble in the conventional classroom, and as part of our studies, we visited the local business community. Because our school was a rural one, the visit was not to a mall, but rather to a downtown street. The goal was, among other things, to acquaint the kids with the people working in local businesses and give them some sense that businesses run on “people power.” The students also were exposed to various types of jobs and many different professions. I found that they were very interested in speaking to business owners.

Students liked the downtown visit and were well-behaved. (It didn’t hurt that the businesses usually gave some “freebie” to them.) This kind of field trip works best, I think, where there is a great diversity in types of businesses being visited. The concern with going to a mall is that there is a narrower range of businesses there. During our trip, we looked in on banks, gas stations, bowling alleys, real estate offices, judo academies, restaurants, and retail stores. My advice to teachers is: “Go for it!”

Brad Brown

University of La Verne

La Verne, Calif.

To the Editor:

The field-trip policy at the inner-city public elementary school where I teach requires that all field experiences meet the goal of enhancing grade-level indicators. Teachers must submit a trip itinerary and demonstrate its alignment with the curriculum. Then the trip is considered for approval by a director of the program.

I think this is a professional way to handle field trips. They can still be fun, but they are also connected to important learning goals.

If students can learn more about what they study in class, I don’t care whether a field trip helps market a business or service. If the quality and content of the experience gives our students the knowledge they need to know to master high-stakes tests, so be it!

Bev Maddox

Columbus, Ohio