History Field Trips: Beneficial or Useless?

Photo+by+Patricia+Sasser

Photo by Patricia Sasser

The History field trip program is one that most students are familiar with; the department’s attempt to create a more dynamic learning environment for their students. But are the trips actually effective? Many students question the merit of the trips, wondering whether they are beneficial to their understanding, but others see them as an opportunity for the type of active learning that is impossible inside the classroom.

Students challenging the value of these trips argue that they do not provide any additional information essential to the course. Many see them as a waste of time and complain about missed classes. One senior commented; “I went to the port in Mystic, CT for my US history course my junior year and I didn’t learn anything I couldn’t have gotten from our textbook. It was fun, but it seemed a bit unnecessary.”

On the other hand, many see field trips as an opportunity for a change in scenery, and say that the trips establish a more hands-on learning experience. Many believe that students are given more room to explore, more freedom to ask questions, and more space for creativity. Karen Parsons, an AP US History teacher, stated, “Going on these trips really matters, because not only are students able to take in information differently, but they prepare by formulating questions and reading primary sources, helping to shape a meaningful experience.” In preparation for the trips, students read primary sources and create questions relevant to their trips, allowing them to think deeply about important themes and to push the boundaries set by their textbooks’ stiff facts and their classes’ rigid syllabi.

Teachers aren’t the only ones who see the benefits of history trips. Ilya Yudkovsky, Class of 2017, said, “US history courses in particular have a tendency to have a less stimulating curriculum, making it hard for teachers to make an uninterested generation interested in History – these trips are a great way to make students more interested in the subject.”

This experience is hard to attain inside the classroom or out of a textbook. Touring the places where history took place opens up the unique opportunity to see and empathize with the people whose lives we are studying, and to see the things that they saw and trace their paths through life.