Field Trips Just Got Smarter

Essential Experiences℠ launched in 2018 as an initial three-year, $1.2 million commitment from GAR Foundation to provide preschool through fifth-grade students at Akron Public Schools with a meaningful co-curricular field study. In 2022, we renewed the initiative through academic year 2025 with an additional $2.1 million in funding.

Goals of the Program:

  • Provide robust, cocurricular experiences for every APS elementary school student.
  • Curriculum aligned with Ohio Learning Standards.
  • Connect APS students to our broader community.
  • Highlight careers in these respective artistic fields.
  • Support the development of host providers, especially in the areas of inclusion and accessibility.

Building Connections

Students visit one of seven local cultural and historical organizations to participate in custom-designed educational programming directly connected to classroom learning. Each school year, nearly 10,000 APS students participate in the experiences deepening connections to our community, building skill sets through inquiry, and gaining exposure to career possibilities.



“Ready, Spark, Kindergarten” is a 15-week music program by ArtSparks that joyfully fosters kindergarten readiness skills through rhyming and dance. All Pre-K students meet with an instructor weekly inside their classroom. This experience culminates in an energetic live showcase with parent and community audiences.


Akron Children's Museum

We are thrilled to partner with the Akron Children’s Museum to bring “Explore Galore with Monsters and More!” All Kindergarten students spend the day on-site at the Akron Children’s Museum predicting, estimating, counting, sorting, and more through playful discovery and problem-solving.

First Grade

Akron Zoo

In this two-part “Animal Encounters” experience with the Akron Zoo, all students participate in a guided tour of the Zoo where students observe habitats and identify how those habitats support living things. In part two, the Akron Zoo’s ZooMobile visit students in their classrooms where they will interact with animals to understand what living things need to survive.

Second Grade

Cuyahoga Valley Environmental Education Center

Students spend the day as “Junior Rangers: Ecosystem Explorers!” in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, exploring the natural world around them. They practice observation skills while investigating a pond and forest ecosystem. Students “think like a scientist” through exploration activities centered around making observations, asking questions about our observations, and making personal connections.

Third Grade

Hale Farm & Village

Students take a trip back through time in “Building Communities Together,” a fully-guided tour of Hale Farm & Village that explores how Ohio's early communities in the 1800’s transformed from small, isolated farms into thriving villages. Students are engaged with games, gardens, and oxen while they are guided between historical artisans, farmers, and village locations, learning about the growth of healthy communities along the way.

Fourth Grade

Akron Art Museum

Each fourth grade student visits the Akron Art Museum to discover the role of “Artist as Inventor." Students become both artists and inventors, as they find new ways of seeing the world, new ways of using materials, and new ways of solving problems through both a gallery and studio experience.

Fifth Grade

Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens

Fifth grade students advance their history skills by visiting Stan Hywet Hall & Garden and experiencing “Akron: City of Opportunity” from the organization’s past by exploring the trades, crafts, and careers of 1920s immigrant or migrant workers. Students then apply their knowledge to modern-day Akron opportunities.

Each experience was carefully designed by Learning Specialists, teachers at Akron Public Schools, and the host organizations to include specific learning objectives that are directly tied to the teacher’s lesson plan and Ohio’s learning standards. Each experience includes pre-visit and post-visit activities, age-appropriate college and career targets, and technology elements.

Three important elements make these experiences more robust than a typical field trip:

Photo by: Shane Wynn

The experiences are designed by professional educators to connect directly to the content being taught and learned in students’ own classrooms.

Photo by: Shane Wynn
Equity & Inclusion

Prior to this initiative, field trips were not guaranteed for every child and every classroom across the district. Essential Experiences℠ ensures that every child in every participating grade gets to have the same valuable experience.

Photo by: Shane Wynn

Essential Experiences℠ provides students with a consistent, hands-on, grade-appropriate experience to support their learning each year. 

Related Blogs & Articles

Essential Experiences Photo

Essential Experiences℠ to Connect Local History and Culture to Classroom Learning
February 28, 2019


Essential Experiences Photo

GAR Foundation Renews Three-year Commitment to Essential Experiences℠
September 14, 2022