This featured guest post is by Felicia Jackson.
Engaging students on an art field trip starts long before you get to the museum. While students will look forward to this type of field trip because they are interested in the subject, others will view it as a day off from school, and some will even view it as an uninteresting requirement they must suffer through. But with a little advanced planning you can make this a memorable educational experience for all your students.
Connecting with the art and the artist
Prior to the field trip, explain which pieces of art you will be viewing and why. If possible, show your students pictures of the art and even museum itself. It might not be as exciting as viewing pictures of Disneyland, but seeing the museum can get the students excited about where they are going. Some art exhibits move frequently or are part of a traveling show. Tracking the progression of the tour or timeline of the artwork on a map reinforces geography lessons and builds a sense of excitement about what the students will be seeing.
In the weeks leading up to the field trip, make the artist and their art real for your students. Assign a biography or watch a documentary about the artist or art style to help the students understand not only the artist, but also the era in which they produced art. In addition to a biography, assign art projects based on the art you will be seeing during your field trip. If there is any connection of the artist and your students’ hometown or state, be sure to mention it.
Bringing in multi-media
Some art, like Michelangelo’s David and the Sistine Chapel, have become cultural touchstones. Even if someone has never seen the original piece, they have probably seen it referenced in popular culture. The Simpson’s television show has been on the air for over two decades. In that time they have referenced many famous pieces of art, often in the background or as a side note to the main story. One episode, The Flying Hellfish, even builds a story around art theft during World War II.
Brainpop is a website and phone app that produces short, accessible, high quality animated videos on a variety of topics including art concepts as well as artists. You can use Brainpop to quickly introduce students to art concepts and then go into more detail as your students develop their own art projects.
The Day of the field trip
On the day of the art field trip be prepared to answer questions and share tidbits of trivia to keep your students engaged. Some students may want to rush through the museum, moving from room to room without really looking at the art available. Since many museums have benches for visitors to use, ask your students to sit on a bench and look at one piece of art with you. Help your students notice the colors, the subjects, or the brushstrokes in a way they haven’t seen before. If you are viewing art that is hundreds of years old, you might mention the time and effort it took to collect the pigments for paints, how the paint was made, how the canvas and brushes were made, or how the artwork has been preserved over the years.
Felicia Jackson is a teacher and guest author at Master of Education, where she contributed to the guide to the Top 10 Best Online Master of Education Degree Programs.
Image by -Jeffrey- on flickr, used under the Creative Commons License.