The Long Trip

Creating 'Contacts More Real': Lucy Sprague Mitchell's Long Trips

When speaking to a group of teacher educators, Lucy Sprague Mitchell (1941) posed two questions: "What can we do to enlarge the groups to which student teachers belong?” and “What can we do to enlarge the groups to which their future school children will belong?” She believed the Long Trip offered an opportunity to move beyond “merely knowing about” people to actually “knowing them.”

In essence, the Long Trip grew from the aims and curriculum of the Bank Street teacher education program, with its focus on the total development of the teacher as well as the child. Based on Deweyan beliefs in education through experience and the social-political aims of education, the Long Trip reflected what Lucy Sprague Mitchell believed was important for teachers: studying children and the world in which children grew—as it was and as it might be.

So each spring, from 1935-1951, excluding the years of World War II when the trips were suspended, Mitchell led the entire class of approximately twenty-five to thirty-five student teachers, all traveling together by bus over a thousand miles, to areas of the country dramatically different from New York City. These week to ten-day trips placed the student teachers in a position to confront directly social and political issues of their day—the labor movement, poverty, conservation, government intervention programs, race relations—all the while considering the lives of children and their families, and the educational implications of what they experienced.

Mitchell (1946) was convinced that “learning that comes from first-hand experience has a smiting quality...” With the optimism characteristic of the progressives, she believed that empathy, caring, and commitment would grow from seeing the world from another’s eye. With the hindsight of over half a century, across years of work and family life, many of the students who attended the Long Trips have confirmed her belief.

Written by faculty member Sal Vascellaro (GS ’75).


Bank Street’s Long Trip, originated by Lucy Sprague Mitchell, took place each spring from 1935-1952. Faculty and student teachers would travel together to encounter the complexity of a distant environment and confront its social and political issues: the labor movement, poverty, conservation, government intervention programs, race relations—and the consequences for children, their education, and their families.  

Revived in 1996 by Fern Khan, then Dean of Continuing Education, and Carol Hillman, a Bank Street alumna and former Board of Trustees member, the Long Trip is now open to students, alumni, faculty, staff, and friends of Bank Street. 

Each trip offers exciting and heart-warming opportunities for connections with new friends and colleagues. Participants have met with the local people and learned about their culture, education, economy, and religion in places such as Savannah, Georgia, Jamaica, Finland, and Costa Rica.