The idea of field trips as a foundation for education stretches back as far as ancient times. Philosophers like Plato and Aristotle would lecture as their students followed them around their cities, seeing the truth of everyday life. Modern field trips often allow students to get a realistic and hands-on view of the world, enhancing the education they receive from textbooks. However, these trips can also have a number of disadvantages.
Planning and preparation are often the biggest hurdles in setting up an educational trip.
Nearly every field trip experience requires permission from each student's parent or guardian. Parents will often worry about the safety of their children outside school, and liability becomes an issue, especially if the field trip involves physical activities. Many students will also have physical or medical limitations; teachers must take these into account and prepare for potential problems.
Parents must also give permission for students to see all the material involved in a field trip; some parents may not want their children seeing fighting or sexual references, even if they are part of a Shakespearean play.
Educators planning on taking a trip must also make alternative plans. What if your trip is outdoors and the weather ruins your initial plans? How many chaperons do you need for the number of students you have? How will you travel and pay for lunch and other fees associated with museums or parks? All of these problems must be address before the educational trip can happen, and it often becomes a huge burden for educators.
Most of the time, students will be excited to take part in any activity that gets them out of a classroom for the day. That excitement can contribute to the educational experience but may also limit the amount of education that actually occurs.
Educators must find a way to keep students on topic throughout the trip. If you take students to a national park to observe wildlife, your students will want to wander off through the trees, spend the time using their music and communication devices or talking with their friends about that weekend's activities.
Similar effects can happen within confined areas, such as theaters for plays. Educators must find ways to prevent their students from talking, texting or even sleeping, which can ruin the experience for those around them. Educators must be able to trust and control their students to have an effective educational trip, and this is not always the case.
Cost can be a key hindrance in conducting a field trip. Schools will often have tight budgets for bus rental, gasoline allowance, food and drink purchase and fees for trips. Anything beyond the school's budget will need to come from another source, sometimes from the educator himself.
Some schools also require insurance for the students on field trips because of the large number of liability issues. This cost can easily send a field trip well over budget and leave educators scrambling for a solution.