I read an article the other day titled The Importance of Art Trips in Art Education. You can read it if you click on the title in the previous sentence. The point of the article by Sarah Curtis is that students need to be exposed to art. They need to see the real thing. Seeing art in posters, on the internet, photo-copied paper, or videos isn’t enough. I agree with that.
But, taking students on an Art field trip isn’t as easy as it might seem. There are costs that many school districts must consider. One such cost is not monetary. It is the cost of missing other classes. Many administrators limit the number of field trips in a year for that reason. They don’t want students missing their core courses of Math, Science, History, and English. With schools being graded by how well their students test over the core courses it is no wonder administrators are hesitant to allow classes to go on field trips. Although, I haven’t heard of many administrators that did not allow students to miss two days of class for a track meet or basketball tournament. But that is an issue I won’t address here.
Another cost is transportation. I taught in a rural school district. It took two hours of driving time to get to a major art museum. Our district only had a certain number of school buses. There were a few extra buses but sometimes those were already spoken for. Many times if we wanted to go on a field trip we had to be back in time for the end of the day bus run. Plus the school district had to pay a bus driver to drive us and wait while we were on the field trip. That was an extra cost as well.
Plus, when a teacher takes a class out on a field trip, that teacher will most likely have other classes that have to be taken care of. I taught a Web Design class, 5th and 6th grade Art, 7th and 8th grade Art and High School Art I and Art II. I was not going to take 5th through 12th grade together on a field trip. That would have been insane. So I usually limited my field trips to High School classes. So paying a substitute teacher for my other classes was an additional cost.
I have been involved with taking large groups of students on field trips to the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston. The experience was always a little scary for me because I worried about how my students would behave. I have to say that I rarely had any problems. Sometimes I combined my field trip with another teacher. It helped to have two adults. Asking responsible parents that you feel comfortable with to come along to help supervise is also a good idea.
The best field trip I ever experienced was with my Art II class. They were a small group of 8 to 10. I decided I wanted to take the students to a place I liked to go when I wanted inspiration for my own painting. The field trip was a quest to create art instead of looking at art.
I took several digital cameras on the trip for the students to use. We packed a sack lunch and all the art supplies we would need such as sketchbook, pencils, colored pencils, pens, etc. I took the students to one of my favorite places, the Rose Emporium in Independence, Texas.
The Rose Emporium has beautiful gardens with flowers, herbs, antique roses of every kind, vegetable gardens, garden art and more. I walked the students around the area and set up a schedule for the students to share the cameras. The students were required to take photos to be used later in a work of art. I also expected all the students to create some sort of finished drawing, page of sketches, or a poem written about the area.
I told my students I was going to participate in the assignment and would draw also. I found a semi-secluded spot and began to work. My Art II group was very trustworthy and I knew I did not have to police them every second. I could draw a while and then go check on them. The funny thing was that almost all my students gravitated towards the area I was in. They watched me as I worked. They asked questions. They picked my brain about the way I was drawing or why I chose a certain subject.
I could tell as we sat and worked together that these students were starting to see things other than a garden with flowers. They began to notice shadows, streams of light, different values of greens in leaves, negative space between objects. All the lessons on the Elements of Art and the Principles of Design seemed to come together in this one experience. My students had learned to really perceive, to use their sight in a way they had never done before. I was impressed by their work and their work ethic. They got into the assignment. They saw that I loved what I was doing and they wanted to experience that love also. It was great.
Do you have any Art field trip experiences you would like to share? Any comments about field trips? Any administrators out there that want to say anything to Art teachers? Here is your chance.