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Field Trips: Opportunities to Increase Graduation Rates, Future Salary

In recent years, lower classroom budgets, standardized testing and increasingly rigid education requirements have left decreasing room for field trips for many high school students across the United States. As schools attempt to adapt to government requirements placed on K-12 and higher education, students currently in the education system are being denied the opportunity to expand their horizons and cultivate their talents, abilities and passions. However, recent studies show the tangible impact field trips and leave-to-learn excursions have on high school students, regardless of gender, age, ethnicity and family income level.  

The argument for hands-on learning via field trips and leave-to-learn excursions is strengthened by studies such as the one conducted by the US Travel Association: it found educational travel in young people is linked to success in academics and careers, so much so that students who were exposed to field trips in their youth earn 12% more in their careers. When comparing adults who had taken a learning trip in their early education versus those that had not, the study also concluded student field trips are linked to higher grades in 59% of students and increased high-school graduation rates. 

At Youth Entrepreneurs, we place a premium on offering unique and transformational opportunities to our educators, students and alumni. This past June, nine high school students and their two educators from the Los Angeles-based Inner City Education Foundation (ICEF) boarded a flight for Bozeman, Montana. The purpose of the four-day learning exchange was to participate in a pitch competition while working in teams with Youth Entrepreneurs students from Montana. The exchange proved to provide an environment for LA and Montana students to apply principles related to innovation and entrepreneurship to develop start-up prototypes for the pitch competition. ICEF educator Parker Hudnut observed this exchange was instrumental in “illustrating how urban teens can quickly connect with rural Montana teens by finding shared interests.”   

The opportunities for experiential learning continued outside of preparation for the pitch competition. Students visited Yellowstone National Park, talked agriculture with local ranchers and even experienced a summer snowstorm. The interactions, according to Hudnut, “far exceeded my wildest expectations.” Research conducted following this exchange program also revealed a change in thinking in students: 85% reported feeling more inspired to seek out knowledge from others as a result of the experience, and 100% reported working with their various teams showed them the value of collaborating with others. Additionally, 85% of attendees believed the experience increased their confidence in networking, and 78% of students feel more confident presenting in front of business leaders. One student commented, “Remember my name, because one day I’ll be a big businesswoman.” 

The Youth Entrepreneurs program seeks to remove the barriers impeding students from reaching their full potential in life; this LA/Montana Exchange experiment sought to expose students to transformational ideas while building self-confidence. It succeeded.