Last week I had the opportunity to chaperone a high school AP class field trip to The Metropolitan Museum of Art. In the midst of Grecian sculptures, impressionist paintings and awestruck students, I thought to myself, “Why don’t we have more field trips in college?”
Growing up in north New Jersey, most students had the compulsory field trips to Sterling Mine or even the Crayola Factory. The reasoning was always to provide supporting material for what was being learned in the classroom at the time. While I’m not entirely sure how constructive the Crayola Factory was, our teachers saw it valid and valuable.
Some of my most memorable classes in college have been ones where I was forced to travel outside the walls of University Hall and learn by experiencing and doing. Whether it was taking a Saturday trip to the Museum of the City of New York or using class time as an independent study to observe a public school classroom, they all offered things that a regular classroom cannot.
Montclair State University is privileged with being located in a culturally rich area. An Uber to Bloomfield Avenue or train ride to Penn Station opens students to a broader view of the knowledge the real world can offer. Field trips could be used more in our college courses to diversify our instruction and make the class more engaging.
Being that Montclair State has a diverse group of students, there are many ways that professors could use field trips without getting immense push-back. If they were built into the syllabus from the first day of class, students could then make the decision whether or not they want to continue taking the class.
If professors didn’t want to build trips into class time, they could simply require that the trip be taken by a certain date. This gives students ample time to find a day that works best for them around busy work schedules and other classes.
As a student who has always loved school, I know that I sometimes find regular classroom instruction boring after a while. Even the most interesting topic or engaging professor can seem like a lot in an hour and 15 minute class multiple times a week. Field trips offer both the professor and students a way to break up the learning process and bring something in from the outside.
This different style of learning allows professors to get creative with their content. If a newly released movie has relevance to a topic in class, students should go see it and return for an in-depth discussion. If a professor knows an exhibit is on display at the Montclair Art Museum that could add to their lectures or seminars, they should allow students to go visit for extra credit.
There is a time and place for everything. So while not all field trips may make total sense for a particular class, it would be helpful and inspiring to see professors make more of an effort to include experiential learning in combination with their regular instruction. It is a great way to engage with the community around you and only broadens your horizons on what is out there to discover.