Innovative, Unique Essential Experiences Lauded

Natl School Boards Assn. Honors APS/GAR
Posted on 03/29/2023
Image of Fourth-Graders Visit Akron Art MuseumThe Essential ExperiencesSM program was developed as a collaboration between Akron Public Schools, a local philanthropic organization and several community partner organizations to provide elementary students with a common meaningful experience outside the classroom. Students in preschool through fifth grade visit one of seven local cultural or historical organizations to participate in custom-designed educational programming directly connected to their classroom learning. Each school year, more than 9,000 students deepen connections to their community, build skill sets through inquiry and are exposed to career possibilities by participating in this program.

GAR Foundation is a local philanthropic organization deeply invested in the Akron community. The foundation helped the district create a comprehensive field studies program for all students with equity across buildings and to push inquiry-based learning. Site visits have included the Akron Zoo, Cleveland Museum of Natural History, Hale Farm & Village, Akron Children’s Museum, Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens, and Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

The district knew organizations were accustomed to hosting one-day field trips for other schools but asked the institutions to create something new and unique for its students. The curriculum teams worked with partners to create meaningful pre- and post-experience activities.

Akron Public Schools is home to 20,627 students in 45 schools. Student demographics are: 46.49% Black, 28.63% white, 10.19% multi-race, 8.90% Asian or Pacific Islander, 5.58% Latinx, 0.16% Native American, and 0.05% Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander.

Innovation: Prior to the grant, field trips at the elementary level were mostly teacher-driven. A student’s ability to attend outside learning opportunities may have been limited by barriers including funding or where a student lived or where they attended school. Field trips just were not guaranteed for every child and every classroom across the district. The Essential ExperiencesSM grant and partnerships now ensure that every child in every elementary grade district-wide gets to have the same valuable real-world experience that strengthens their connection to their learning and their community.

Evidence of success: The GAR Foundation uses survey results from participating teachers and partners to gauge program effectiveness. It was able to collect 164 responses from teachers, teachers’ aides, administrators and chaperones during 2019-20 (Year One). These surveys revealed that 75% felt that the experiences complemented classroom learning “very well” or “somewhat well,” and 86% of all teachers felt providers provided a positive environment for students.

During the 2021-22 school year (Year Three), survey responses were collected from 189 teachers. Results revealed that 83% felt that the experiences complemented classroom learning “very well” or “somewhat well,” and 85% of all teachers felt providers provided a positive environment for students.

Image of Fourth-Graders Visit Akron Art Museum
Website by SchoolMessenger Presence. © 2023 Intrado Corporation. All rights reserved.