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Student Field Trips & Budget Cuts

February 22, 2010

A casuality of cutbacks in education over the past several years is funding for field trips to museums and archaeological sites.  We need to develop creative responses.

In New York, the Rochester Museum & Science Center’s has innovated by taking programs into the schools.  Although the Museum charges 400.00 for the service, the price is cost effective for the school considering field trips average 11.00 per person to take 300 students to the Science Center.  The Museum expanded their  current Outreach offerings to 15 different programs.  The demand for the Center’s Outreach programs to the schools increased dramatically with a doubling of year-to-date revenues from the previous year.

Community partnerships are another means for funding field trips.  For example, at the White River Valley Museum in Auburn Washington, funding from the local Rotary Club, subsidized field trip expenses.  This avenue of support seems a natural.  Rotarians and other civic-minded individuals likely harken back to their time as students and the importance of field trips in their own formative experience.

At the C.H. Nash Museum at Chucalissa, several approaches prove beneficial in reaching students.  First we promote the ticket subsidy program sponsored by the Tennessee Arts Commission that covers up to 50% of the cost for student participation in events at the Museum.  We also revised and tied all of our programs, crafts, and activities to the curriculum standards for all tri-state (Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee) area schools.

One of Chucalissa’s most successful new programs is the “Family Day” activity.  Less than one year old, we launched the program based on a community supporter’s comment.  One day, as a busload of children were arriving at the Museum, I commented on the enthusiastic response we received to our new programming.  The community supporter commented that this was great for schools, but what about the families who might visit the Museum?  Her comment begat Family Days.  Now, during the summer on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday at 10:00 AM and 1:00 PM and during the school year on Saturday only, we offer families who arrive at the museum a 2.5 hour program comparable in scope as that provided school groups.  The program includes our introductory video, tour of our hands-on archaeology lab and the archaeological site, our hands-on music program that includes a drumming circle, a scavenger hunt, and a craft activity where children make a pottery bowl to take home.  The program is a big success and allows us to reach youth who otherwise, because of budget cuts, might not be able to make the field trip.

What steps can you suggest to offset the shrinking field trip dollar?

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