Thursday, December 4, 2014

In the Art Room: 10 Totes Amazing Field Trip Tips

Do y'all take your students on field trips? I remember my very first year teaching (some 17 years ago, ahem) when I was informed that taking kids on a field trip was apart of my curriculum (which reminds me, New Teachers: Don't confuse your curriculum with a Bible. Ya don't hafta live or die by the thing. Think of it more as a suggestion. More than likely from someone who hasn't been in an art room for a handful of years. Possibly because they couldn't handle the scandal [oh, now, curriculum writers, don't get your artsy pants in a wad. You know it's kinda true.] Now, if you'll please help me down from this here soapbox, I'll return to the post at hand. Thank you). And I just about freaked out. I mean, here I was, in my first couple months teaching, just trying to wrap my absurdly small brain round the fact that the art education of 400 students was in my constantly-paint-covered hands and now I also had to take 'em field trippin? Are you kitten me? Cat's crazy!

But I did. I took 100 first grade kids to see some Impressionist exhibit.

And, what? You want me to tell you it went off without a hitch? That the whole thing was a magical experience? Well, it wasn't, y'all. I made many a mistake (One being I paid for 100 first graders to wear headphones for the exhibit. You know, like a Walkman, y'all [17 years ago, remember?] As you can imagine, that ended badly). After that first experience, you'd have thought I'd never give it another go. But afterward, the kids talked about our field trip for weeks (and so did their classroom teachers, unfortunately. Ahem). They loved the art, they loved the bus ride, they even loved those ridiculous Walkmans. And it made me realize that the kids just loved getting out and experiencing the world. Which immediately made me thing of The Most Famous Field Tripper in the Universe...
That's right. Ferris Bueller. 
Because our Word of the Week had been "gratitude", some of my second grade students wrote thank you notes to the Frist Center for Visual Arts. I shipped 'em out just yesterday.

I mean, you've gotta take 'em out to see the world so they won't miss it, right?

Since that first year, I've taken my students on field trips to the local art museum or botanical gardens nearly every year. Now, I don't take 'em all (I'm not that crazy) but the grade level where it most pertains to what we are studying. Or, if I'm being really honest, to the grade level that is the least likely to run amuck and act a fool. Which changes every year, as y'all know.
 Now over the years, I've learned a thing or three and I thought I'd share 'em here with you. To ease your field trip anxiety (which never actually goes away. I suffer from Field Trip Night Terrors before each and every outing.) I thought I'd share with y'all my 10 Totes Amazing Field Trip Tips. Are ya ready? 

1. Preview the exhibit before planning a trip. So, the art museum has a great exhibit on Pablo Picasso? Sweet! Just be sure to check it first to be certain it's not Picasso's lots-of-boobs-and-naked-chics period, emrkay? Seriously, be certain it's kid-friendly and interesting. Don't no (under 10) kid care about Picasso's philosophy on Cubism.

2. Get the lay of the land. Before you take kids, you really outta know just where the bus will drop the kids, what door you'll enter, what time the art museum actually opens (last year I got us there about 10 minutes before the museum opened. It was freezing outside! I seriously ran from one locked door to the next, banging on the door,  looking for a way in. I felt like Dustin Hoffman in the final wedding scene of The Graduate). It's also super important to know just where the bathrooms are. I mean, do you really wanna be known as the art teacher whose student peed in the middle of a Picasso exhibit? "Clean up in the Rose Period!" Me thinks not. 
3. Talk to your teachers and get 'em on board (i.e., have them do your dirty work). The teachers at my school are super supportive and have always been corporative with field trips. These folks take their students on field trips more regularly than we do, so they are used to this field trip game. So, put them on the case! Use their permission form format when writing your own (they may even be kind enough to just write it for you!). Also, have them collect the forms and the money. Think of it this way: it's a lot easier for them to collect from the 20 plus kids they see daily then the 100 you see only every couple of days. 

4. Bring in the reinforcements: CHAPERONES! My fave chaperone? Our school nurse. She's there "just in case" and I'm so happy for that. I also love it when grandparents are able to make the trip as I can tell it really means a lot to them. And, as a general rule, the meaner the mom-chaperone, the better (oh, I joke. Kinda).
5. Tell the kids what's up. I created this prezi before my most recent field trip. Cuz the more informed the kids are, the more excited they are going to be. Many of my second grade kids had not been to the art museum. Don't assume your students have either. This might be a once in a lifetime for them (fingers crossed that's not the case!). 
One of my fave things to do before a trip to the art museum, is to write about it as a class. I usually start with, "What do you know?" either about the art museum or the exhibit, "What do you want to know?" which encourages the kids to reflect on their upcoming trip and, when we return, we talk about "What did you learn?" As the kids tell me this info, I'll jot it down on a large piece of bulletin board paper. Often times, I'll display this along with some photos from the experience in the hall upon our return.
Our art museum has a lot of history. So I really enjoy sharing that with the kids along with what's inside. When the kids make more of a connection with a place, they'll be more excited about going there and, hopefully, want to go back. 
6. Museum etiquette. Look, even school-skippin Bueller knew how to behave in an art museum.
We spend a whole lotta time on this here chat. My biggest concern is always disturbing the artwork and/or disturbing the patrons. I tell 'em, people pay big bucks to visit an art museum. They're there to see the art. Not some children with no sense of etiquette. After all, that's just down right uncivilized and might cause people to look at us like this...
 Like, ew, what's wrong with that kid and why is he hanging all over Picasso's Blue Boobie Nude Number 23?

Now, you'll most def wanna silence your cell phone but don't forget to bring it! You never know what kind of emergency call you might have to make to your school (I had to ring the bookkeeper last year in a panic. I hadn't paid the admission cost! Thankfully she came through with a credit card payment...but I woulda been in hot water with out my phone). 
7. Tell 'em what they'll experience. You know, like the artwork. Show them examples of the art and how they'll see "the real thing" (which is a mind-blowing concept that I don't actually own the real thing, to my students. "Wait, you mean that poster isn't the real Starry Night?!" Um, no). 
At our art museum, we spend one hour touring the exhibit and the following hour creating stuff. I explain that process to the kids so that they completely know what to expect when we arrive. AND because I completely hate answering, "What are we doing noooooow?" twenty-thousand times. Ahem.
8. Bus behavior. Oh, the bus. Not my fave part of going on a field trip, not gonna lie. However, on my most recent trip, the teachers I went with did something which I thought was simply genius. They requested that the kids remain silent while we were on the city streets so that the bus driver could focus. As soon as we hit the highway, they were free to chat. The noise level was hardly noticeable because of the sound of the highway. Once we turned off the highway toward the museum, it was back to silent bus. Smart, right?

Speaking of bus rides, before that bus even reeves up to leave for the museum or return, please be certain to do a head count. Like 20 times. Those teachers I mentioned above? They were constantly counting their kids. Once on the bus, once after we got off the bus, again inside the museum -- you get the idea. Count those heads like there's no tomorrow, y'all.

And don't sit with the kids. Definitely don't eat any gummi bears they've been keeping warm in the pockets all day (please tell me I'm not the only one who remembers this scene?!). Personally, I like to sit at the front with the bus driver. Because I'm always a little concerned s/he might not know where to park or drop us off. Oh, and speaking of bus drivers, I always have a map to the museum on hand for the drivers as well as chaperone passes (because I hate the idea of them sitting on the bus for two hours). 
9. Reflect fondly on our experiences. 'Kay, so I already told you about the one writing thingie we sometimes do. This year some classes even wrote Thank You cards which were pretty sweet to read. You've gotta have some sort of reflection time after such a trip, right? Get 'em talking about what they learned and loved. 
 I mean, can I get an "awww...."? 
Reflecting can also come in the form of creating. We actually created these paintings at the start of the year when we first began exploring Kandinsky (lesson here, kids). So it was a great tie-in to what we saw at the museum.
10. Be inspired! Seeing an artists work in a museum is inspiring for the kids and me as a teacher. The kids are excited to return and create and I'm thrilled that I squished some culture into their lil heads. It's a win-win-inspirational experience, y'all.

So, tell me, do you take your kids on field trips? What are some of your Totes Amazing Field Trip Tips?! 
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  1. Excellent tips and I love the humor you've added. The presentation ahead of time is a good idea. I wish our local art museum had an art area for the kids to actually make art too.

    1. Oh, having an art making area makes a big difference as it breaks up the field trip a little bit. What I love about their art making area is that many of the activities pertain to the exhibit. I wish your local art museum had an art area too!!

  2. What fabulous timing for this post, Cassie! I am going to be taking my 2nd grades from two of my schools to the Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha, Ne in February. I haven't taken field trips like this in the past because of so many reasons that were out of my control. Now, our director of curriculum and instruction ( new guy!) has declared that all second graders shall take a trip to the local art museum to support our new curriculum! Hooray! I am so stealing your Prezi ideas, with your permission of course! :). Wish me luck!

    1. Do steal away!! And have so much fun! I know you're students will be thrilled. How wonderful to have field trip support, yay! I'll have to hear all about it after February :)

  3. I'm actually the person you would come to visit! I'm a museum educator who teaches in a museum in New York. We definitely try to have a variety of activities to engage the students in the art work, as well as having the experience of looking and talking about art. If they've previewed the image before coming, they always love to see the "real thing" I would say as a tip - if you want to really tie the exhibition to your curriculum, try to call or visit your educator before hand. We love knowing what you're working on or interested in before hand!

  4. Cassie,
    Thank you for sharing your experience. So glad you brought your kids. I know how difficult it is to coordinate. The wonderful thank you notes have been up in our office. Thanks!


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