LA CROSSE, Wis. -

Field trips to The Children's Museum are about hands-on learning outside of the classroom.

"Having some fun but kind of sneaking that learning in along the way,” said the museum’s marketing director, Leanne Poellinger.

A $3,000 grant from Xcel Energy has helped about 700 students visit the Children’s Museum since 2003. The La Crosse museum recently found out it is getting the grant again this year.

"What it allows us to do is offer half-price field trips to schools that have high populations of low-income students, which is a lot of the schools around here," said Poellinger.

Eight elementary schools in the La Crosse School District qualify for those discounted rates, which cut the field trip admission price from $4.50 to $2.25.

To qualify, a school has to show at least 40 percent of its students are eligible for free and reduced-price lunch.

At Hamilton Early Learning Center in La Crosse, 80 percent of students qualify. Classes at Hamilton make a trip to the Children's Museum with the help of that grant every year.

"Sometimes these experiences for kids are the only ones that they get where they're going to be able to go to a museum, experience a concert -- things that many people take for granted," said Hamilton/School of the Arts I Principal Steve Michaels.

For many of these families, cutting the admission price by just a few dollars makes all the difference.

"There is no extra money for our families. There is none ... because it's all accounted for in putting food on the table and putting a roof over kids' heads. There is nothing left," said Michaels.

But he said that doesn't mean any kid should miss out on the fun, the learning and the memories of a school field trip.

"When you talk about things that kids remember most from the year, I can say with almost 100 percent certainty that kids are going to talk about a trip they took,” said Michaels. “It's rarely the math lesson that they talk about."

For many Hamilton field trips, transportation is the biggest expense. Michaels said that's another reason trips to the Children's Museum are a good deal for the school, because students and chaperones can just walk there.