A few weeks ago, I was on a trip with family. My cousin mentioned taking their young son to the Texas State Aquarium on Friday morning “when it wouldn’t be so busy.” I looked at him in disbelief: “Don’t go anywhere near there until late afternoon! On a Friday in May, the place will be overrun with school groups.” He looked at me, completely confused. I said “At the Village, we’ll see almost 1/3 of our total school field trip attendance just in the month of May. Fridays are the most popular. Go some other time!” He still didn’t quite believe me.
But then they went to the Aquarium, getting there around 1 p.m. They were absolutely amazed at how many school buses were in the parking lot.
Don’t get me wrong–I love our school field trips. They are the bread and butter of what we do. I love seeing kids wrinkle their noses when they smell donkey poop, gaze in wonder at the “big white house” and shop in the General Store. The energy level of these kids powers all of us. But I do always feel bad for the innocent tourist or family that wanders into the Village at 11 a.m. on a Friday in May. We’re busy, we’re crowded, we’re loud. But there’s an incredible amount of learning going on.
This last week, I’ve been spending a lot of time on the grounds, quietly observing and snapping a few photos to add to our image library. Here are a few random observations of school tours in action at the Village:
- Standing on the dog trot at the Farmstead, and 4th graders remark “This is just like what we saw in our history book.” Always a thrill when kids make that connection.
- Kids start running towards Millermore (note: we do not encourage running at the Village, but we also know that we can’t stop it). Dad says “I’ll race you,” and he takes off. They are all excited about getting to Millermore just as quickly as they can. Where else do families race towards a historic house?
- So, we sell wooden flutes in the museum shop. They’re super popular, but I know several folks (staff and visitors!) that would prefer it if they just vanished off our shelves. Teachers and chaperones always threaten to confiscate them. But the best was when one kid blew really hard into his flute and all of his friends yelled at him. Peer pressure in action!
- The look on kids’ faces when they see a messy pile of wool turned into yarn. It truly is magical.
- Listening in on staff and volunteers as they patiently answer questions, tell stories, and guide our little visitors towards a love of history. They treat each question as if it’s the first time it’s ever been asked, even though I’m sure it feels like the millionth time.
There’s much, much more and probably a story for each of the almost 25,000 students that visit us each year. This school year, with such tight budgets for schools, we anticipated at least a 10% drop in school tour attendance. But, it looks like we’ll only see about a 2% drop. Thanks to sponsorship dollars from Frost Bank, the Tess P. White Foundation and the Bill and Katie Weaver Charitable Trust, we’re able to keep costs to schools low.
Some other fun numbers:
- Students from 44 school districts visited us this year. About 25% are from Dallas ISD.
- So far this month, we’ve sold 3500 candy sticks and almost 700 flutes. Yes, we send kids home hyped on sugar and history with noisemakers.
- Old-fashioned games aren’t dead yet! We’ve been selling lots of marbles (450), yo-yos (350) and jacks (300) this month too.
As we enter into our last week of school tour season, I’m especially thankful to all the teachers and chaperones that plan the trip, help us help their kids learn, and make sure that everyone gets back on the school bus at the end of the day.
If you’d like more information about our school programs, please click here: http://www.dallasheritagevillage.org/SchoolTours.aspx