After the two years of field trips being halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Georgia schools are getting back on schedule with class outings. Likewise, non-profit venues that were hurt by the pandemic’s continuance and feared dormancy are being revitalized by new school initiatives. Fulton County schools, for example, began their expanded programs aimed at giving every child in the 90,000-student district a chance to visit an educational venue. For Brookview Elementary students, a September trip to The Chattahoochee Nature Center in Roswell.
“For 18 months, we were absolutely quiet,” said the nature center’s president and CEO, Natasha Rice, “For us, this is a huge deal because everybody … wants to see kids in nature.” The children spent the day hiking up hillside trails, relaxing under canopies of green leaves, learning how the Creek and Cherokee tribes built shelters and made clothes – even their hunting and gathering practices. They were given the chance to inspect and feel animal hides and hooves, and marvel at rescued three-legged box turtles too.
According to Amanda Smith, a museum teaching specialist who develops such outings for the school district, this new program, with the tagline “expeditions for everyone,” aims at exposing all students to memorable, hands-on learning beyond the classroom. Each grade will take trips to a different site, from botanical gardens and the symphony to art and science museums. This is in large part thanks to Fulton County’s budgeting plans, gathering $4 million over three years in order to expand field trip offerings. Organizations like The Cultural Kaleidoscope Initiative also play major parts in the district’s federally funded $169 million plan to help students recover from learning setbacks suffered during the pandemic.
After the two year pandemic, as in-person learning was brought back, field trips were still slow to return, as many large metro districts dealt with transportation challenges and navigated ongoing safety concerns. But since this past spring, popular attractions such as the Atlanta History Center, the Georgia Aquarium, Zoo Atlanta and the nature center – each of which annually hosts tens of thousands of students – have been reporting their field trip attendance numbers as soaring higher and higher with each new month. According to the Chattahoochee Nature Center specifically, schedules are returning to their busy norms, as officials are expecting 11,000 students to visit by the end of January, with those numbers vastly increasing by next spring.