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Remember the school field trips you took as a kid? Whether you went to a museum, farm, factory or other destination, you probably recall hopping on a yellow bus and giddily leaving your textbooks and the classroom behind for a few hours.

Today, many kids aren’t getting those same opportunities, as schools increasingly cut field trips due to budget concerns. Unfortunately, that means students today are missing out on invaluable learning opportunities that go beyond the textbook or classroom.

That’s why programs such as those offered by the Detroit Institute of Arts are so important. As part of the tri-county millage benefits passed in 2012, the DIA is able to provide free bus transportation and free admission to thousands of school children from Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties.

The DIA also provides guided and self-guided tours as well as online teaching resources for schools, which include lesson plans that can be incorporated into various curriculum areas.

Increasingly, local schools are taking advantage of these opportunities. In 2017 alone, a record-breaking 73,239 students took field trips to the DIA. That was an increase of more than 6,000 students from the previous year.

“Field trips spark students' imaginations, encourage discovery and allow students to step outside the familiar to experience a diversity of cultures and perspectives,” says Salvador Salort-Pons, DIA director. “It’s part of our mission to promote education by connecting students with art and it’s due to the generous support of tri-county residents through the millage that we are able to provide these enriching experiences to students.”

Teachers say they see the value of field trips firsthand. Growing up, Libby Fortune went on numerous school field trips to the DIA herself. She remembers being in awe of the larger-than-life sculptures, the impressive building and the paintings that brought to life the pages of her textbooks. Those field trips made such a lasting impression on her that she eventually became an art teacher and has taken thousands of her own students on field trips to the DIA over the years.

“I think field trips, regardless of what you’re teaching, are important, as they support everything that’s going on in the classroom,” she says. “It's so important that you give children a real-life experience that supports your instruction, and I can see this firsthand by doing the DIA field trips.”

“Even as the bus arrives, you can just hear the excitement, and then that continues to build as they explore the museum,” Fortune says. “The kids are just amazed, and they love it. I’ve yet to have a kid in all these years that has had a negative comment about the experience.”

Dominick Perrone teaches eighth grade English and American history, and for the past eight years has taken students to the DIA. He says while field trips can be a lot of extra work for teachers in terms of logistics, the overall experience is well worth it.

“Students really see the way that artists from various cultures show their ways of living,” Perrone says. “Students have a chance to get out of their routine in their everyday learning at school to examine what it means to be human and how our cultural differences are expressions of life in a particular place or among a particular group of people that are meant to fulfill the basic hallmarks of humanity that bind us all together as one.”

Studies show that school field trips support learning in a way that classroom lessons alone can’t. Over the years, research has shown that kids who take field trips get higher grades, have higher graduation rates from high school and college and make more money than kids who don’t, even when accounting for gender, ethnicity and socioeconomic status.

A recent study conducted through the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Ark., found that not only do students retain much of the information they learn on field trips, but the trips also improve their critical thinking skills and even help foster their historical empathy and tolerance

“Exposing young people in our region to a wide range of history and culture that can’t be found in books, movies or online is a critical part of what we do at the DIA,” Salort-Pons says. “Exploring the museum gives students new tools to express themselves, discovering their identity and individuality in ways that aren’t always available in the classroom.”

For more information, visit the DIA’s website.

Members of the editorial and news staff of The Detroit News were not involved in the creation of this content.

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