The field trips are the result of the Erie Canalway Ticket to Ride Program, which funds transportation to canal sites and pays for educational programming.
“Every fourth grader in New York State learns about the Erie Canal, but few ever see it,” said Bob Radliff, Director of Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor. “Ticket to Ride is turning that around, so that we teach students firsthand about the innovation, perseverance, and vision that have long been drivers of our state and nation.”
As schools struggle with shrinking budgets, field trips are often the first to be cut or eliminated, especially in less affluent districts. More than 50 percent of the schools involved in Ticket to Ride represent majority underserved populations where greater than half of students receive reduced or free school lunches.
“There is an overwhelming need to provide greater access to New York’s historic and cultural sites,” said Larry Scott, Co-Chair, Buffalo Parent Teachers Organization. “These trips offer contextual experiences that enhance classroom content and learning.”
In Buffalo, collaboration among Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor, the Buffalo Central School District, Buffalo Parent-Teachers Organization, Niagara Falls National Heritage Area, and the Erie Canal Discovery Center in Lockport makes the program work.
Students tour the Discovery Center and then visit the famed Lockport Flight of Five historic locks, as well as Locks 34 and 35, which have been in operation since 1914.
“By walking around the canal and locks, the students get to experience not only the history of the canal, but also the technology that went into the engineering and building of the five double locks at Lockport,” Ann Marie Linnabery, Education Coordinator at the Erie Canal Discovery Center.
Statewide, more than 7,400 students representing 34 school districts will participate in educational tours thanks to Ticket to Ride this year. Erie Canalway Ticket to Ride also receives support from the National Park Foundation, Institute of Museum and Library Services, First Niagara Bank Foundation, and New York State United Teachers (NYSUT).
The Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor spans 524 miles across the full expanse of upstate New York, encompassing the Erie, Cayuga-Seneca, Oswego, and Champlain canals and their historic alignments, as well as more than 230 canal communities. www.eriecanalway.org
Photo: students at the Lockport flight of locks (provided).