The Power of Field Trips

Most of my direct service consists of teaching interactive, fun and meaningful field trips for K-12 students in the Museum of the City of New York’s special and ongoing exhibitions. Through teaching, I have come to understand the impact that museum field trips and museum education at large provide for students. 

I have seen students really respond to seeing themselves or their stories represented in the Museum’s objects because many view museums as the representation of a community and its values.

Seeing real objects from the past, close-up and in person, is a powerful way for students to understand that the past was as real and material as their lives now. During the field trips, students see some of the objects that are part of the Museum’s collection, some of which are quite old. A question I always get from students while looking at these older objects in galleries is: “Are these things real?” When I respond that they are, the students’ reactions range from awe, to disbelief, and to curiosity, to name a few. There is something special about looking at an artifact up close and in person, especially when so much learning and life takes place on digital platforms. 

Field trips are impactful because students are prompted for personal reflection. I have seen students really respond to seeing themselves or their stories represented in the Museum’s objects because many view museums as the representation of a community and its values. In one of our galleries that speaks to the diversity of New York City, we have a guira, a percussion instrument from the Dominican Republic. I have had many students on field trips get so excited when they see the instrument because they recognize what it is and want to share their knowledge with me and the class.  Students also see other stories or experiences that may differ from their own lives during field trips, helping them become more self-aware and understanding of others. 

Finally, field trips are impactful because they provide students with a one-of-a-kind experience. I did not go on many field trips growing up but for the ones I went on, I still remember where I went, what I did, and what I learned, all while having fun. During field trips at the Museum, students participate in hands-on learning that is inquiry-based and driven by the objects they see in the space which can be different from how they learn in the classroom. They also serve as a supplement to the material they are learning in class, reinforcing what they’ve already learned or will learn within a different context. 

These are just some of the ways that field trips are impactful for students of all ages – I could go on for a while! I love teaching field trips and can’t wait for the many more I will do this school year as my direct service work. 

Picture of Natalia Wang

Natalia Wang

Natalia (she/they) is the FAO Schwarz Fellow at the Museum of the City of New York.

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