I am a really big fan of getting out of the classroom and into a gallery or museum space. Maybe it is because I spent all of my college years debating being in the classroom being a teacher or being a “gallerina” in museums. I tried both and ultimately, one day I was offered a teaching job on the first day I started a job writing curriculum at a local museum…..and I clearly took the teaching job and am thrilled I did! However a couple years in, I wondered, why not combine these two loves? Alas, our annual field trips were born!
I have been chatting with some art teacher colleagues who are not thrilled about the idea of all the stress of planning and it occurred to me that having a plan is what makes it seem more simple for me….maybe it will be helpful to you too?
1. Choose a grade level to work with
You get to choose which group of colleagues and which students are easiest to start a field trip with. There will be mistakes and challenges, so you should choose a group who will be supportive and helpful so you can learn together!
2. Pick a museum or gallery space!
It is possible that you are close to an amazing space or maybe it is far away. Think about staying within an hour for sure. One of my students once asked “What will we do for entertainment on the bus?” which made me giggle and cry all in one. But it is an honest concern for kids if the bus ride is too long. One of the museums I worked at loaned out works of art to schools, and this is a really cool option if the museums are too far from. Why not call and see if they will send you a Gallery on the Go?
3. Pick a date
I try to do a day that is different than the kiddo’s art day. I hope you have a great schedule to do this (another post about scheduling is another story indeed). I feel this is best for preparing students days prior and then off you go for a successful trip!
4. Delegate and prepare
I am blessed with the best colleagues ever and not to show off, but we work as a team and things are so much better that way! We prepare by having me be in charge of the curriculum and museum piece, and they deal with money, permission slips, chaperones and busses.
5. Take the trip prior to your visit
I know you would never ask your students to make a project that you haven’t given a trial run to, so how could you go and bring your kids in public without a plan?!?! Go with a friend or your family and grab a cup of coffee in the cafe, check out the gift shop and enjoy because the day of the field trip shall not be as luxurious, and it helps too! 🙂
6. Plan curriculum or a scavenger hunt (or use the museum’s resources)
It really depends on the museum….some have amazing tour guides and sometimes it is just more fun to plan it yourself. I do both. At our local sculpture park, I like to have the docents give my kids a tour and then we have a snack and sketch time. At our local enormous museum, I prefer to have the kids peruse and enjoy many galleries with my scavenger hunt as a tool that helps them gain focus.
7. Go on a virtual tour in class
It is fun to pretend to see some works in class as it allows kids to experience the field trip virtually but also so they have an experience with recognition! Nothing brings me more joy than when kids walk into a gallery and get so so excited to see a Monet or Van Gogh! We also have a talk about nudity in artwork and prepare how to be respectful and mature in public and in museums and galleries!
8. Label maps, plan schedules and prepare any details
Now is the time to check in with your team and make sure the groups and chaperones are set and I am sure my scavenger hunt is photocopied, my maps are highlighted and my schedules are aligned. I grab some cell phone numbers of everyone and I try really hard to be sure not to be a chaperone if possible. It is my preference to float when I can, to manage and be there if there are any problems.
Field trips bring a whole level of exhaustion indeed, but a ridiculous amount of pride and joy too!
On the day of the trip, I try really hard to get feedback. Each year I learn something new. The trip is too long, too short, not enough time here or there. I love to talk to colleagues and chaperones about the logistical stuff, but then is the real fun….talking with the kids! I enjoy sitting in classrooms and hearing favorite parts, what they learned and watching them write and sketch about the day!