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Posted on Nov 1, 2011

Funding Learning Outside the Classroom

Funding Learning Outside the Classroom

by Gerry Ebbers, SCSBC Consultant for Stewardship and Development ◊

Students learn both in and out of the classroom.

Learning outside the classroom can be incredibly profitable experiences both for curricular objectives and for holistic student development. Such learning may include expeditions that demand field work, field trips that may include at least one overnight stay, and tours that may involve significant travel over a longer period of time. Financial resources need to be allocated to learning both in and out of the classroom.

Schools that simply allow or expect teachers to raise funds for learning outside the classroom (resulting in a plethora of sales, ‘thon’s’ and ‘asks’) are being counterproductive because the more one asks, the less one gets. Nor is it fair that those teachers who have access to fundraising options, like the sales from the vending machines or the kitchen to make pies, always get their out-of-the classroom learning funded.

There are better ways of funding all learning. It would be safe to say that most of the learning done in the school’s classrooms is included in the annual budget. However, it would also make sense to include the funding for all learning (whether in or out the classroom) in the annual budget. It is also understandable that some learning outside the classroom could be funded outside of the annual budget if it involves a limited group of students with a significant cost to achieve specific learning outcomes.

To provide a balance of engaging learning within and without the brick and mortar classroom walls, a school’s educational leadership will need to wrestle with the allocation of funds for each. Those leaders will also need to frame the parameters for funding those situations that involves a limited group of students with a significant cost to achieve specific learning outcomes. Depending on a school’s governance model, the decision-making process also may involve the development director, the educational committee or team, or the school board.



Travel: $

Operating Budget: $

Accommodations: $

Additional Fee: $

Meals: $

Sales: $

Fees: $

Sweat Equity: $

Other costs: $

Annual Drive: $

Other costs: $

Dedicated fund-raiser: $



The following are some considerations for funding a limited group of students with a significant cost to achieve specific learning outcomes:

Operating budget:

If the trip or tour is an important, perhaps essential, aspect of the curriculum, then that will determine how much of its cost is included in the operating budget (and covered, therefore, by government grant and tuition). The operating budget pays for all other essential costs of education so it should pay for all or most of essential learning outside of the classroom.

Additional fee:

It is reasonable to expect students to pay a fee in addition to their tuition for any trips that are course specific (like a biology campout) or limited to their involvement (like a band trip) since not all students are taking that option at the same time.


This could be profits from vending machines or lunch programs. It could also be profits from various product sales, but beware that these sales, unless handled properly, can negatively impact the school’s more essential fundraising activities like its annual drive.

Sweat equity:

This is the income earned by students doing various jobs. It could be a car wash for example, but, again, beware that how these work projects are organized can be seen by your supporting community as another ‘ask’. What you want to do with these projects is sell to a much broader community.

Annual drive:

Allowing donors to indicate which option they would like their donation to fund with their gift to the annual drive is an excellent way to secure recourses for specific out-of-the classroom learning. The school’s leadership may need to set some maximums on this option as it will for other options on drive gifts.

Dedicated fundraiser:

A school is wise to have only two or three major fundraisers each year and the first priority of any board is to fund the overall needs of the school, both for current operating costs and for long-term viability. However, one fundraiser each year could be used to generate the resources for specific out-of-the classroom learning.

The challenge for a school’s leadership is providing engaging learning opportunities both in and out the classroom walls in tandem to what the financial resources of the school community can allow. If it’s planned well and in advance, everyone can benefit. It not, there can be a lot of hurtful competition among staff and parents as they push those opportunities that benefit only their students and children rather than the school community as a whole.

Need some more help with this challenge? Please get in touch with me.

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