By Eleanor H. Oakley
President and CEO
What began four years ago as an idea is about to become a reality: United Arts is announcing a new initiative—a Wheels on the Bus Fund for all Wake County Title I elementary schools. As United Arts celebrates National Arts In Education Week, September 11-17, we are excited to add this new opportunity for a large segment of Wake schools.
Because they were instrumental in this, United Arts gratefully acknowledges the support from the 2016-2017 Wake County budget, Duke Energy and Bank of America in establishing this Fund.
The Wheels on the Bus Fund will allow 42 (current) Title I Wake County elementary schools to move one grade level per school per year—approximately 4200 students—to an area arts and cultural destination. The Title I schools are targeted because they have student populations with 40-80 percent of students qualifying for free or reduced lunch assistance.
Schools will choose their field trip destination from a list of 20 Triangle-area options. These were selected because they have in-place educational programs and arrangements for elementary school-age field trips.
The fund will cover transportation costs for the field trip and may help defray entrance costs (if any), on a limited basis. Eligible schools will be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis and must apply online for Wheels on the Bus funding no later than December 9, 2016.
There is no centralized funding from the Wake County school system for field trips. (The school system does pay admission for all 4th graders to attend one daytime concert by the North Carolina Symphony.)
According to a study (“The Educational Value of Field Trips,” published in Education Next, Winter 2014), a field trip to an arts asset for students from low-income homes results in increased critical thinking skills, historical empathy (understanding what life was like for those who lived in a different time/place), tolerance; and interest in the facility type itself. It also found that children from less-advantaged backgrounds showed the largest gains and that these students need their schools to take them on enriching field trips if they are likely to have these experiences at all.
Students—of all ages—benefit from artistic learning, innovative thinking and creativity. So join United Arts in celebrating National Arts in Education Week and take advantage of all the rich cultural offerings in our area—ones that Title I schools can now reach with our new Fund.