Last Friday, the University hosted the K-Grams Kids Fair at the Cliff Keen Arena and Intramural Sports Building. Hundreds of elementary school kids crowded the buildings to meet their University-student pen pals and share educational activities. When I entered to find Robert, the Ypsilanti fourth grader I have been writing to all year, I was immediately swarmed by a group of his classmates, asking me if I knew Jill or Gina or Emily and if they were coming today. The kids were overjoyed to meet their pen pals and excited to be in a new space, asking questions and spewing information to me about the activities they had participated in earlier.

After talking to Robert for half an hour, I found out that this was the only field trip he and his class were taking all year — less than 15 minutes away from his school. I asked him why they didn’t take more trips. He said, “Do you know how expensive it is to take field trips? It’s $600!”

I felt a sudden shock of reality. Why did a fourth grader know how expensive it was to take a field trip? And why is learning outside of the classroom such a privilege? At the developmental stage of an elementary school child, it’s important to be motivated throughout the learning process, and field trips are a great outlet. K-Grams is an amazing opportunity and one of the most meaningful things that will happen to these kids all year. But it shouldn’t be that way. It’s important for kids to have frequent exposure to learning outside the classroom in order to develop healthy life skills.

Money shouldn’t be hampering educational field trips. According to an article by U.S. Newswire, “To meet the higher academic standards set for them, children must have access to a variety of enriching activities so that learning extends beyond the classroom walls and the traditional school day.” The article goes on to say, “Governors, states and communities must work together to weave a seamless web of learning opportunities for children. Doing so will ensure that children can grow into adults who have a better chance to succeed.”

On Monday, April 15 Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder announced the opposite. He said as a result of federal budget cuts there will be losses in allowances for low-income children as well as a $54-million cut in the funding of after-school programs, special education, and career and technical education programs. This is a great example of what we shouldn’t be doing in Michigan public schools. Instead of cutting funding that can help our public schools foster learning outside of the classroom and getting kids interested in future careers, we should be putting money into education that helps youths feel connected and interested. When kids drop out of high school several years down the road because they feel disconnected and unimportant, it only perpetuates the current trends of crime, poverty and lack of productivity.

Privileged families can afford to send their kids to private schools, many of which focus on learning outside of the classroom and developing the whole person, while families who are barely making ends meet are at the mercy of Snyder when he decides to cut after school programs. It’s important to get our kids engaged in learning outside of the classroom at a young age. Developmentally speaking, it can only help them in the future.

Using money as an excuse to not allow our public school children to explore the outside world is ridiculous. We should be allocating our federal money differently. Early education is the key to a lot of our societal problems. We should be doing more than mitigating these social problems, such as crime and poverty. We have the power to take a proactive stance to stopping these societal issues through getting kids involved in learning at an early age.

Maura Levine is an LSA sophomore.

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