Ah, field trips.. a time of fun, a time of learning, a time to experience something you'd never get out of just reading a textbook. Think back on your favorite field trip as a kid: maybe you went to the theater or a national heritage site; to a fire station or a park. In some way, that trip shaped you and left a lasting impression. And chances are, it was an experience you probably couldn't have gotten from just being in the classroom!
Sadly, rising costs and shrinking budgets for educators mean that many Chattanooga students don't get to experience field trips. In fact, 92% of teachers surveyed tell us that lack of funds make it difficult to take their classes on field trips. Schools that serve low income areas are particularly hard-hit, as many students are unable to afford fee-based programs. While their wealthier peers might not have a problem affording a field trip fee, disadvantaged students simply cannot afford it. And without those fees, educators lack the funds to hire buses and pay for programs.
But you can help. With our "$20 for 7" Drive for Schools campaign, each $20 you give will cover transportation costs for 7 students to come to the Aquarium. And with Causeway's 10-for-10 match, 10% of your gift will be matched for every 10 people who donate.
In 2011 alone, the Tennessee Aquarium covered admission and program costs for over 30,000 impoverished students and gave reduced price admission to another 55,000 students. These students experienced culture and nature up close and personal, some of them for the first time in their lives. The Aquarium is dedicated to covering admission costs for students in need, but some schools are on budgets so razor-thin that they cannot even afford the bus transportation to get the students there. We propose a campaign to cover bus fees to bring needy students on trips to the Aquarium, where they will receive environmental education and experience wildlife and their city's river up close and personal.
The Aquarium leveraged grant funds to cover the costs of bus reimbursements for needy Title I schools from 2010-2012. Nearly $100,000 was put toward this growing need each year. Unfortunately, the grant has ended, but the need has not. We have funds to pay admission for students in need, but we lack the funds to physically get them here. We continue to seek grant funds to help meet the need of area schools, but the $20 for 7 campaign allows everyone to pitch in to help.
Because this is our first online fundraising effort, we have set modest goals both on Causeway and at tnaqua.org/contribute. But we hope to blow past each of them, so please share this cause with your friends!
As one of the 5th graders who visited us said, "The aquarium is a wonderful learning environment for young minds." This campaign is to bring more impoverished students in to the Aquarium to provide extracurricular learning.
Studies have shown that students who receive environmental education score better on standardized tests, improve their overall GPA, stay in school longer, receive higher-than-average scholarship awards, and display more responsible behavior. A 2009 study declared that experiences at places like the Aquarium "can significantly improve science learning outcomes for individuals from groups which are historically underrepresented in science, such as women and minorities."
Bringing more of our Chattanooga-area students into the Aquarium will help them become better citizens by engaging them with their downtown and their river.
It may sound a little cliche, but when we improve education for our poorest members of society, we all benefit as a whole. Anyone who sees the injustice of the cycle of poverty can appreciate the chance to make a difference in a child's future. Children from low-income areas, both urban and rural, all around the Chattanooga area will benefit from the educational opportunities available at the Aquarium.
The Development department at the Tennessee Aquarium is leading this campaign, and our Education staff arranges and leads school visits.
February 22, 2013
This online campaign will finish in early April. However, we accept donations on an ongoing basis, specific to bus transportation or however else you denote your gift.