The night of October 11th I could not sleep. My head was filled with excitement and worry. “Did I plan for every possible scenario? Who was going to pick up the bagged lunches in the morning? I wonder what the kids will be making in the art lab?” These are the thoughts and fears that run through an art teacher’s head before her first field trip.
This is my 7th year teaching K-5th grade, and sometimes 4K and an adaptive art class, you know how it is. Although I am blessed to work at an amazing school district that supports the arts, my budget does not leave any room for field trips and guest artists. During winter break of 2016 I took my two year old son to the Walker Art Center in the Twin Cities. As I was walking through I discovered that many of the artists we cover in our 3rd and 4th grade curriculum were on display. It was at that moment I knew I had to take the plunge and begin planning my very first art museum field trip. I know scary right!
This was a very daunting task for me and required me to step WAY outside my comfort zone. My first task was to figure out how much it was going to cost and how to fund it. With many conversations with our elementary secretary about bus costs and the amazing staff at the Walker Art Center I came to the conclusion it would be about $900ish. I then began the grant writing process. I applied for three different grants, which all would eventually cover the cost of the trip. I was feeling very discouraged one week when I heard back that I did not receive two of the three grants. But, in April of 2017 I received a very exciting email from the amazing and wonderful Tiffany Beltz. Wisconsin Art Education Association (WAEA) had chosen to fund my Potawatomi Grant! I was so excited I couldn’t wait. I scheduled to meet with the 4th grade teachers to pick out dates for the field trip. From there I submitted a very easy peasy form through the Walker Art Center to get a specific date.
At the beginning of the 2017-2018 school year we began finalizing the trip details. We had set a date for October 12th, which was a little scary because it was still such a new school year and we had yet to figure out classroom chemistries. But, I did not want to wait till the end of the school year because there are always so many field trips already planned. The three 4th grade teachers were extremely supportive and guided me through all the steps that needed to take place to make it happen. They even took care of the permission slips and communicating the trip to parents. I really felt like it was almost too easy. I know, I am so blessed to get to work with such amazing colleagues.
A week before the field trip I began to prep each class with proper museum edicate. My phenomenal student teacher found a great video from the KQED Art School website that went over basic no-no’s in the art museum (if you haven’t checked out this website you should. They have great videos with contemporary artist). The students made a quick easy six page sketch book to take along and spent the
rest of the class period decorating them.
The day before the trip I split the entire grade into four sections. Each group was a different artist. I made little stickers with a reproduction of the artists work for each kid to wear to help make it a little more clear. Then I had a ziploc bag for each group with their sketchbooks, pencils, extra tape, and name tags.
The kids were super great on the two hour bus ride there and back. I think I was the only one that was traumatized. Of course I told all the kids they better go to the bathroom before we get on the bus because we do not have time to stop. Guess who was the one that almost peed their pants? Yep me, I guess I had a nervous bladder. I am truly thankful for my dear 4th grade teacher friend who talked me through the last 15 minutes of the ride. When we FINALLY got to the Walker the staff there took over. Two of the groups went to the ArtLab for an hour where they made these really cool time capsules which connected directly to each of the pieces they looked at during their guided tour. The other two groups were taken on an hour long guided tour. Each group got to look at about 6 different pieces.
The 4th graders loved the time they got to spend at the ArtLab. The staff had 4 different stations set up, and at each station the students got to make something that they would put in their own personal time capsule. One station was a map of the world where they placed stickers on to represent different places in their life. Another station had them writing out goals they wanted to accomplish in the next 5 years. At this station they got to use rub on letters which pretty much blew my students away. They all demanded that I need to get them for the art room. The 3rd station had students tracing their hand and writing personal traits on it. The 4th station and my personal favorite was a polaroid camera. Students got a picture of themselves and dated it. The kids were super amazed at how the camera worked. We all came to the conclusion that we need to invest in the rub on letters and a polaroid camera for the art room.
The second portion of the field trip was the guided tour. Our tour guide was amazing and had the kids really utilizing the sketchbooks they brought along. Students were particularly pumped about the Unpainted Sculpture by Charles Ray.
When talking to all the students on the way home they all really enjoyed the museum many stating they wanted to go back and see more. I knew then that this trip was so important for many of the students. It may be their only chance they ever have to go to an art museum.
To wrap up the trip, I worked with the 4th grade language arts teacher to have students do a written portion of their experience to the Walker. Students chose one piece that resonated with them and shared a little bit about why they liked that piece and their experience in general to the art museum.
If you have not yet taken your kids on a trip to an art museum I highly recommend it. It was such a great experience and was a perfect way to cover many of the new National Core Art Standards. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions about the process, I would love to share more.