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.