Seattle's Child

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New Tacoma initiative aimed at field trip equity

16,000 students covered for class excursions

The words “field trip” should not divide kids into inequitable lines — one line for those who can afford to go, the other for those who can’t.

That’s the idea behind a new field trip initiative from Metro Parks Tacoma, Tacoma Public Schools and six community partners.

Equal access

Most public elementary classrooms go on field trips throughout the school year, but some are dependent on funding, staffing and availability. The new initiative aims to ensure every Tacoma Public Schools student has equal access to out-of-classroom experiences.

That means 16,000 kindergarten, first and second grade students will be guaranteed access and the opportunity to learn outside the classroom in engaging, information-packed environments and facilities.

Tied to curriculum

According to information provided by Stacie Glenn, Metro Parks public information officer, each grade will be provided access to a location that ties in with their required curriculum. Metro Parks field trip destinations include Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, Tacoma Nature Center, and Point Defiance Park.

What kind of learning will kids experience? The fun kind. The field trips focus on building off the natural curiosity of children by answering their questions and letting them guide the conversation through observations and face-to-face connections with animals and plants.

When kindergarten and second grade students go to Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, they’ll engage in activities led by young science and math scholars studying early childhood education. They’ll take part in scavenger hunts, discuss animal habitat and play science learning games.

A first visit for many

In a release from Metro Parks Tacoma, Carrie Hampton, an early childhood teacher at SAMi lauded the initiative:

“A large part of our population hasn’t even been to Point Defiance Park,” Hampton said. “Some have never been to a beach before or on the trails or even seen Puget Sound. This is helping our students get access.”

First graders headed to Tacoma Nature Center may participate in a self-guided trail walk with an activity guide, play at Discovery Pond after learning how camouflage helps animals survive, and touch various animal furs. They’ll also meet Scooter, a three-toed box turtle, before matching baby and adult animals throughout the exhibits.

‘All about exposure’

“It’s all about exposure, having an experience and sparking their interest and curiosity in nature,” Michele Cardinaux, supervisor at the Nature Center said in a release.

“For everything that we do, we’re trying to facilitate experiences that help people gain an appreciation and understanding of the natural world.”

The new field trip program to the zoo, Tacoma Nature Center and Point Defiance Park is funded by Tacoma Public Schools and Metro Parks Tacoma, with support from The Zoo Society.

Photo: Bryant Montessori students visit Tacoma Nature Center / photo courtesy Metro parks Tacoma

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About the Author

Cheryl Murfin

Cheryl Murfin is managing editor at Seattle's Child. She is also a certified doula, lactation educator for and a certified AWA writing workshop facilitator at