Field trips in NYC slowly return, championed by schools Chancellor Banks

Field trips in NYC slowly return, championed by schools Chancellor Banks

It’s too cold to jump into the sea in November. But 7-year-old Sienna felt like she got the next best thing Tuesday when her Brooklyn public school took a field trip to the American Museum of Natural History’s Hall of Ocean Life on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

“I can’t go in the ocean right now, so it just makes me happy I could see shows about the ocean and images and things,” said Sienna, a student at P.S. 46 in Fort Greene. “It makes me remember the ocean.”

The iconic life-sized 94-foot-long blue whale hanging from the ceiling of the cavernous room was a particular highlight.

“I was dreaming about her last night,” Sienna said.

Trips like Tuesday’s museum excursion have long been a staple of New York City schools. But after two and a half years in which field trips were canceled or largely curtailed because of COVID restrictions, educators and students are slowly reemerging from their classrooms and returning to cultural institutions across the five boroughs.

At the natural history museum, student field trips have increased markedly this school year compared to last year when full-time in-person school returned but trips by school bus remained off-limits until March. Still, visits from school groups are only about 50% of their pre-pandemic levels, according to Lisa Gugenheim, the museum’s director.

“We see this as a steady rise,” she said, “reaching out to teachers and principals and administrators, we hope that number will keep growing.”

That’s also the hope of schools Chancellor David Banks, who repeatedly emphasizes the importance of public schools using New York City as a classroom. He made an appearance at the museum Tuesday to plug that idea.

“It is very important our school leaders and families know that learning exists outside the four walls of our schools, and they’ve got to take full advantage of institutions like this,” Banks said.

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