This term our team was working with Martin Luther King Jr Elementary school to raise funds for two fourth-grade classes to go on field trips throughout the school year. Field trips are an important part of the school experience, helping children broaden their contextual knowledge and deepen learning by connecting classroom material with real-world experience. Field trips encourage curiosity, expand curriculum and engage students in their communities. Unfortunately, field trips are often viewed as unnecessary extra-curricular activities and are frequently the among first items to get cut from a school’s budget.
With the No Child Left Behind act, and more recently the Race to the Top act, a major portion of school funding is contingent upon enough students meeting set criteria through standardized testing. Such tests are in many ways an unfair measure of achievement, disadvantaging non-English speaking students, special education students, minority and low-income children and their schools. When low-testing schools receive less funding their students lose important education opportunities, support programs, and the most-qualified teachers. In order to save the most-needed core classes and stay open full-time schools are forced to make cuts wherever it is feasible.
This means that some schools must either forego field trips completely, or pass part of their costs on to students and parents. MLK Jr. Elementary has a disproportionate amount of low-income students, many of whose families are coping with NE Portland’s rising housing costs, making school fees a true financial burden. Many students at the school cannot come up with the fees, sometimes so many that the entire trip has to be cancelled. Our mission this term was to try to ease some of that financial burden so that more students could experience the benefits field trips have to offer.
We definitely met some challenges along the way in our fundraising efforts. Because the short-term amount we needed to raise was relatively low we expected it to be easier to meet our goal than it was. Instead we found out that that it can be pretty difficult to get people or businesses to donate when there isn’t a direct benefit to themselves. If we had anticipated how challenging this would be we would have probably coordinated our efforts differently, perhaps selling goods or a service rather than attempting to solicit direct donations. Even though not all of our plans worked out we have raised some money through our GoFundMe page and we still have a Dining for Donations event coming up early next month. So while we may not have met our goal for the school year yet we haven’t been entirely unsuccessful and hopefully can meet it with the upcoming event.
As our time for this project comes to a close, we ask ourselves what else we can do as a community to help our local schools. Ways to help would include:
- Join us December 14h at Applebee’s Lloyd Center location at 1439 NE Halsey St. for a Dining for Donations event.
- Check out and share our GoFundMe page on social media: https://www.gofundme.com/king-elementary-school-field-trips-2vpx7fnx .
- This does not have to be a financial contribution, this could be your time as well, which is very valuable!
- Research and support local and state measures that support increases to educational funding.
- Business owners: consider helping your neighborhood school by fundraising for them!