Travel to the NJ State House. For Free. Field Trip!
Did you know that you can take your class on a free field trip to the New Jersey State House (aka the State Capitol)?
More specifically, the Eagleton Institute of Politics partners with the Office of Legislative Services and the New Jersey Legislature to offer grants (in the amount of $300) for your trip to travel to the New Jersey State House for a tour.
What Happens on a State House Tour?
I’ve gone on tours multiple times in the past. The experience will vary year to year, based on when you go.
You can be assured that you will get a tour of the State House. The Office of Legislative Services (OLS) has staff on hand to provide tours year round. They’ll meet you at the entrance to the Capitol building, walk you through the Assembly and Senate chambers, and leave you in the museum at the end of the tour. The staff are knowledgeable, and they’ll give you a good tour that’ll last 45 minutes to an hour.
What’s less predictable is the schedule of the Legislature.
If you schedule your tour to coincide with a voting session or a committee meeting, you can assure that your students will see actual Legislators. This is always nice because then your students get to see the state government in action.
Neither Eagleton nor OLS will make sure that you meet with your legislator, so arranging that is up to you. Usually, a legislator’s staff is happy to schedule a quick meeting if it is possible. You can improve your chances of meeting your legislator by scheduling your tour on the same day that he or she has a committee meeting. The last time I toured the state house, our legislator (Sheila Oliver) was serving on the Transportation Committee. We attended the committee meeting, and afterwards she came over to address our group for a few minutes.
This is neither guaranteed nor impossible. It’s really up to you to pick the best possible dates and then reach out to your legislator’s office.
The Logistics of Getting a Grant for Your Field Trip
In order to get the grant money, you’ll have to fill out the application on the Eagleton website. Unless times have changed, they have plenty of funds – you just have to follow the guidelines and fill out the application properly.
There are some basic requirements (i.e. taking a trip of 25+ kids to the state house). So long as you meet these requirements, you should be granted the funds. Applications are processed by Gloria Minor, who works at the Eagleton Institute. I assure you that she is a real person and that she is very nice. If you have any issues, please contact her and be patient. She will do her best to assist you.
As for the amount, will $300 cover the cost? That depends on how far you are from Trenton and what vendor you use for student transportation. I teach in East Orange, and our field trips usually vary from $200 to $400 for a day trip. The $300 grant should cover all or most of your trip. If it doesn’t cover the entire trip, hopefully your administration can come up with the remainder.
Is There Anything Else to Do In Trenton?
Trenton is a wonderful place, and of course there is plenty to do there on a field trip. Unless you’re staying for a lengthy voting session, your State House tour will only take you an hour or so. If you’ve taken a bus a substantial distance to Trenton, you probably want to do something else while you’re there.
Further down State Street, you can find the New Jersey State Museum. It has some natural history artifacts as well as some historical artifacts and pieces of art. My students enjoyed wandering through it.
There is also a tour available at the Old Barracks around the corner from the State House. This will cost you $8 per adult and $6 per student. The last time I went, it was interesting and certainly worth a few extra dollars on your field trip. As long as your budget is above zero, the Old Barracks is worth the time. Students will learn some interesting things about the American Revolution and serving in the military in the late 1700’s.
Are you going to plan a field trip to Trenton this year?