14 Things to Know About the Essential Experiences Initiative

March 18, 2019

GAR Foundation recently announced the launch of new initiative called Essential Experiences to provide preschool and elementary students at Akron Public Schools with a meaningful learning experience outside of the classroom. Learn more about the program by browsing the frequently asked questions below:

What is the Essential Experiences program?

Essential Experiences is the name of a $1.2 million initiative from GAR Foundation that provides preschool and elementary students at Akron Public Schools with a meaningful learning experience outside of the classroom. Students in preschool, and first through fifth grade will visit six local cultural and historical organizations to participate in educational programming directly connected to their classroom learning.

Where will the field trips be held?
  • Preschool: ArtSparks (on site in the school classrooms)
  • First Grade: Akron Zoo and ZooMobile (on site and in the classrooms)
  • Second Grade: Cleveland Museum of Natural History
  • Third Grade: Hale Farm & Village
  • Fourth Grade: Akron Art Museum
  • Fifth Grade: Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens.
How many students will be impacted?

Roughly 8,800 students will participate each year, over three years.

How is the $1.2 million funding allocated?

The $1.2 million in grants were made to the six provider organizations to implement the initiative over three years. The grant was not made directly to Akron Public Schools.

My child attends an APS elementary or preschool. Will I have to pay for her to participate in these activities?

No! The funding from GAR Foundation covers admissions cost and fees. Akron Public Schools covers the transportation costs.

Why aren’t middle and high school grades included in this initiative?

The implementation and expansion of the College and Career Academies at the middle and high school levels incorporates key learning experiences for every student connected to exploring college or career pathways, and connects them to learning opportunities with dozens of local organizations and businesses. Essential Experiences extends that kind of hands-on learning tailored to the needs of younger students in the elementary grades.  

Why aren’t kindergartners included in this initiative?

The key experience for kindergarteners – a visit to the planetarium at Firestone High School — is already being implemented by APS, and therefore it is not formally included in the Essential Experiences initiative.

How does the field trip connect to classroom learning?

Each experience was carefully designed by Learning Specialists 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 Learning Standards. Each experience includes  pre-visit and post-visit activities, age-appropriate college and career targets, and technology elements.

How do these trips differ from traditional field trips?

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

  • Curriculumbased: the experiences are designed by professional educators to connect directly to the content being taught and learned in students’ own  classrooms.
  • Equity and 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.
  • Consistency: Essential Experiences provides students with a consistent, hands-on, grade-appropriate experience to support their learning each year. 
When will the field trips take place?

The first group of students will pilot the experiences in Spring 2019, and full implementation will kick off in the 2019-2020 school year.

How were the provider organizations selected?

GAR took the lead of Learning Specialists and senior management at APS when identifying the organizations best suited to work with us on this collaborative approach.

How can other organizations be a part of this initiative?

This is a significant investment for GAR not only with funding, but of time and talent to work with providers and for the district to implement this new approach. As such, we will not be taking on any new participants for now.

Will GAR expand the program after three years?

Our support for an initial period of three years allows us to assess capacity to scale up and serve other grade levels. We will evaluate in 2022 how we will proceed with the program.

What is the difference between Essential Experiences and My Essential Experience?

Essential Experiences is the name of the initiative. #MyEssentialExperience is a social media campaign which invites members of the community to share a memorable experience from their school years.