This guest article, the first in a series, was written and submitted by Claudia Bartow. This series is based on the original article by the author, published by the Amerian Alliance of Museums in February 2019, and has also been featured in the Ohio Local History Alliance newsletter. This article has been printed with the permissions of the author.
(Pictured: Claudia Bartow with "Abe Lincoln" prior to a class trip to Gettysburg)
As the United States, the world and likely your historic site get back to “normal” thanks to COVID improving, you may be thinking about how you can best start school field trips back up at your site. Or maybe your location didn’t offer much to teachers and schools before the pandemic, and you are looking to improve and reinvigorate your relationship with them.
“That was so much fun! That was an awesome field trip!” These are the statements you want to hear from students after a field trip. As a twenty-year veteran teacher who has escorted young people on dozens of field trips, I can tell you that they are often one of the best memories of the whole school year for students, especially after not having any for two years! It is a day that they look forward to with anticipation, and often remember long after they get home. It is a day away from the ho-hum routine of school, a day with their friends and a day to see and learn new things many have never experienced before. For teachers, a great field trip is a delicate balance between connecting with the curriculum, making it enjoyable for the students, and handling the unique logistics and behavior challenges that come with being off the school property.
All historic sites have at their core a desire to educate the public about whatever specific area they showcase. Having a school group visit is an awesome opportunity to contribute your specific brand of knowledge and education to our future. Additionally, bringing school groups in gives sites a nice boost in ticket sales. And if the experience you provide those students is remarkable, you can bet they will be back with their families to visit!
How can you as historic site professionals make it easy for teachers to provide a memorable, interesting, and educational trip to their students?
This article is the first in a series of six which will deep-dive into how you can turn your site into the “must-do” annual field trip for local youth. While this article gets the ball rolling and provides tips for how to connect with local schools, homeschool associations, and local youth groups like scouts, the other five articles will focus on:
Each article will feature a complimentary and editable digital download for you to use at your site.
This installment will focus on connecting with your local schools and youth groups. When was the last time you reached out to them? Likely, due to COVID restrictions and either you not being able to host groups or them not being able to go on field trips, your site is a little rusty hosting hoards of energetic young people.
Historic sites and museums must reach out to these groups and rejuvenate interest. You have so much to offer young people with your exhibits, artifacts and stories! Reaching out to teachers and youth leaders to let them know you are “open for business” again and would love to see them could be just the thing to trigger them scheduling a visit with you and increase interest in your location. Reconnecting with your local youth after the worst of this pandemic is a great step in creating a thriving historical site or museum.
This Google doc link is a template you can use as an email, letter or postcard to send to local teachers and youth leaders. When you click it, it will have you “Make a Copy” so that you can edit it as you see fit. Like what you see? See how to get a ready-made Google form to send prospective teachers and a letter template for how to help schools pay for field trips in the author’s bio below.
Claudia Bartow is an Ohio middle school Social Studies teacher, military veteran, and author. She has orchestrated many field trips with her students at locations around Ohio, Pennsylvania and in Washington, D.C. Claudia loves to create effective and customizable tools to help small to medium-sized museums and historic sites increase engagement with their local schools and teachers. Her latest offering, “Field Trip Kickstart Kit”, features the downloads in these articles and much more. She can be reached at [email protected].