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Impact Study of School Field Trips to Arts Organizations

Atlanta, GA – Researchers from the University of Arkansas’ National Endowment for
the Arts Research Lab working with Atlanta’s Woodruff Arts Center and Atlanta Public Schools have
released two working papers showing that students who attend multiple arts field trips have higher
levels of social-emotional skills, stronger school engagement, and higher standardized test scores.

“The Woodruff Arts Center is one of the only venues in the country to offer three art forms –
music, theater and visual art – on a single campus. We are thrilled that the groundbreaking
research tied to our Multi-Visit Program confirms what educators have long known: arts experiences
are an essential

component of every child’s formative school experience,” said Woodruff Arts Center President and
CEO, Doug Shipman. “We are grateful to Atlanta Public Schools for its ongoing support of this
initiative and hope these findings will impact field trip practices for schools and arts
organizations throughout the nation.”

NEA Research Labs focus on generating new knowledge about the value and impact of the arts for the
benefit of arts and non-arts sectors alike. Led by Dr. Jay P. Greene, head of the Department of
Education Reform in the College of Education and Health Professions and director of the UofA NEA
Research Lab, researchers collaborated with The Woodruff and APS for this longitudinal experiment
focusing on the social-emotional and academic impacts of arts-related field trips on underserved
students. The Woodruff Arts Center houses the Alliance Theatre, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, and
High Museum of Art on one campus, making it an ideal partner for this ambitious project.

Researchers randomly assigned fourth and fifth grade students to receive three field trips to each
of Woodruff’s arts institutions in a single year. Some students received three additional field
trips in the second year, for a total of six. A control group of students within the same schools
and in adjacent grades did not receive the treatment arts field trips.

In a first for arts field trip research, the authors were able to connect student survey responses
with student administrative data like attendance, disciplinary infractions, GPA, and standardized
test scores. This information provided a broad, long-term perspective on the effects of
arts-focused field trips for students.

Students who were randomly selected to attend the field trips showed:

• Significantly higher levels of social-perspective taking and higher levels of tolerance

through the survey item “I think people can have different opinions about the same thing”

• Positive academic gains and more interest in school overall

• Higher standardized test scores in math and English Language Arts than students in the
control group

• Female students who attended the field trips become more conscientiousness, those who
attended six field trips in two years showed even higher levels of conscientiousness, showing a
compounded effect

“Because social-emotional learning is currently such an important topic in education discussions,
this evidence of important gains in social-emotional skill acquisition is particularly relevant and

encouraging,” said Angela Watson, lead author on one of the working papers and a Distinguished
Doctoral Fellow at the University of Arkansas. “We also found that students in the treatment group
have more positive school engagement. They are less likely to agree that ‘school is boring’, and
they have fewer disciplinary infractions in middle school than their control group peers. Equally
exciting are the study results on academic outcomes. With the ever-present focus on increasing
standardized test scores and strengthening student engagement, schools should consider the
importance of field trips and arts experiences in a well-rounded education.”

Greene and his research team are finishing data collection for year three of the Woodruff study,
which will add a third cohort of elementary students’ survey and academic data. They will also
continue to collect student administrative data from all three cohorts through middle school, high
school and beyond.

Altered Attitudes and Actions: Social-Emotional Effects of Multiple Arts Field Trips and Does Art
Make You Smart? A Longitudinal Experiment of the Effects of Multiple Arts-Focused Field Trips are
both available for download now on SSRN.


Angela Watson University of Arkansas


Heidi Holmes Erickson University of Arkansas


Kathleen Covington Alliance Theatre


About the University of Arkansas NEA Research Lab: The University of Arkansas NEA Research Lab is
supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts Research Labs program. This lab, located
in the Department of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas, aims to study the potential
non- cognitive and emotional benefits of activities related to cultural consumption and arts
related educational field trips on elementary, middle, and high school students.

About The Woodruff Arts Center: The Woodruff Arts Center is one of the largest arts centers in the

country, home to the Tony Award-winning Alliance Theatre, the Grammy Award-winning Atlanta Symphony
Orchestra (ASO), and the High Museum of Art, the leading art museum in the Southeast. One of the
only arts venues in the United States to offer both visual and performing arts on a single campus,
The Woodruff produces outstanding theater, music and exhibitions for nearly 800,000 patrons each
year. Through the combined efforts of the Alliance, the ASO and the High Museum, The Woodruff
offers remarkable educational programming, serving 150,000 students annually – making The Woodruff
the largest arts educator in Georgia.

About Atlanta Public Schools: Atlanta Public Schools is one of the largest school districts in the
state of Georgia, serving approximately 52,000 students across 89 schools. The district is
organized into nine K- 12 clusters with 61 neighborhood schools, five partner schools, 18 charter
schools, two citywide single-gender academies, three alternative schools and four alternative programs.

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