Field trip to the mall

Teachers are discovering a convenient, cheap place for field trips: the mall. Instead of trekking to a zoo, kids can pet the animals at Petco — and get free stickers and discount coupons. Field Trip Factory sets up trips to supermarkets, sporting goods stores, car dealerships and other locations.

“Businesses are looking for new ways to attract younger customers,” said (Lynda) Maddox of George Washington University, located in Washington. “One thing we know about human behavior — establish a relationship, and they’re more likely to be loyal to you. And if they can get kids into a store and establish a relationship with them, it’s worth their weight in gold.”

On Petco’s “Fur, Feather & Fins” field trip, a store employee teaches students about different animal characteristics and behavior, as well as how to care for them as pets. At Sports Authority, students learn the importance of exercise, sports safety, and different types of athletic gear and clothing. And for Lowes Foods’ “Be a Smart Shopper!” field trip program, students learn nutrition and healthy meal and snack planning while sampling organic baby carrots and kiwi fruit.

I’m somewhat dubious about the value of field trips, having gone to school in what must have been the pre-trip era. In all my years of elementary and middle school, we only had three field trips: a bus ride to the Natural History Museum in Chicago, a walk to the train station and one-hop train ride (plus return), and a visit to the town library. In high school, we had a biology trip to Volo Bog. Jan falling in was the highlight. A person really does sink quickly in a bog.

I remember only one corporate gimmick: In fourth and fifth grade, we got comic books on fire safety featuring Johnny Hartford (Hartford Insurance). That’s how I know I shouldn’t be storing old paint cans and rags in the garage. I do. But I know it’s a fire hazard. I thought of Johnny Hartford when I finally got the bad wiring fixed.

About Joanne


  1. mike from oregon says:

    I’m probably a bit jaded, but I see this as some more of the ‘social engineering’ that is so prevalent in our society. Not terribly different than the issue that is made about the brand of jeans or sneakers that you buy and wear. While the wearing of clothes has to do (in the kids minds) with status – it is still linked to a brand; major marketing hype. Ditto this nonsense!

    I’ve never held a warm fuzzy place in my heart for field trips, for most kids it just means a day off school.

  2. I’m not terribly enthusiastic about counting a trip to the mall as a field trip, but I grew up as a student in DODD (department of defense dependent) schools, and I have a very warm place in my heart for the field trips I took while a student there. We visited Trier and the roman baths, we went to Cologne, we saw german WWII cemetaries, we visited just about every castle on the Rheine river, and I even spent a week in Budapest before the collapse of communism. Stateside, with the exception of a trip to collect specimens for the Saltar’s Point Elementary School’s saltwater aquarium, I can’t say I ever went on a field trip I thought was worthwhile.

  3. Bluemount says:

    I went on very few field trips as a child, but they were memoriable events I would not have had otherwise. This is an inexcusable waste of time. I dislike encouraging children to touch strange animals. Go to the Yellowstone websites if you’d like to see some video’s on what happens when kids have poor animal communication skills.

    “When Corporations Rule the World” we don’t need thinking people, just a market

  4. corsair the rational pirate says:

    Here is another field trip you might want to check out:

    The Blue Ridge Sanitarium

  5. There are field trips and then there are field trips. To a natural area (like Volo Bog), yes. Part of the reason I went into the natural sciences were all those field trips (and not just school trips; my parents took me on “field trips” too) to the Cuyahoga National Recreation Area and the various Metroparks and for hikes and canoeing…

    I don’t know. I don’t see anything so very enriching and different about going to the mall for a kid – 90% of them spend at least one Saturday a month there to begin with.

    Maybe I’m cranky about this because I was partly responsible for arranging for a children’s play on my college campus – and then some of the local schools didn’t come. Why? They had already planned their field trip allotment for the year – to go see the “Rugrats” movie at the local movie theater!

    For a field trip to be worthwhile, I think it has to allow the kids to do or experience something they might not otherwise.

    Actually, one of the most fun and memorable field trips when I was quite young, was a trip to the local post office. We walked there from school (in classic two-by-two formation), the postmaster took us on a tour of the back rooms and showed us how letters got postmarked and sorted (probably not possible today, in the post-9/11, anthrax-in-the-mail fearing world), and then we even got to mail letters we had written to ourselves and watch them get postmarked. Of course, this was when I was in 2nd grade or so, and such a thing was a big deal.

  6. Tim from Texas says:

    Well, ricki and all that have posted here thus far. You’re speaking of meaningful field trips.
    The problem with this field trip to the mall is they didn’t allow it to be meaningful enough. Why by golly heck, they should have involved the wireless phone companies, had cell-phones on loan so the students could do meaningful play as a “can you hear me now” game. Better yet, issue them cam cell-phones. Have the girls practice taking pictures of the boys being gooofy, and the boys could practice upskirt picture taking strategies. For lunch how about some lunchable product booth for experience purposes and a diet cola booth to wash it all down to create that wonderful balance. There are just so many ways a trip to the mall can be made more meaningful.

    I apologize, if I’m over the top here. This kind of situation just really makes me want to puke.

    The going-to-the-mall-shopping celebration/ritual and gorging ourselves will be the only activities left acceptable for us to do if the market’s strong arm isn’t twisted back to where it belongs.

  7. This was a Daria episode, and quite funny as I recall. The scheme in that episode was pretty much the same as the one described here.

    Now it’s reality.

    I remember when I first read Don DeLillo’s White Noise and laughed at the absurdity of a Professor of Hitler Studies and a Professor of Elvis Studies, but now I see classes on Elvis pop up in English Department course lists.

    Do the people involved in these things watch these shows and read these books and thing that they are good ideas rather than parody?

  8. If the pet stores were smart they’d turn themselves into petting zoos. Mama, I want a goat!

  9. Jack Tanner says:

    ‘kids can pet the animals at Petco ‘

    ‘I dislike encouraging children to touch strange animals. Go to the Yellowstone websites if you’d like to see some video’s on what happens when kids have poor animal communication skills.’

    Are there any horrifying pictures of kids getting mauled by puppies, kitties and bunnies?