Most schools are back in person, and most of life is back to normal. This means field trips are on again! Art galleries and museums are fantastic places for students to learn about vast artistic styles, movements, and artists. Why show a digital projection of an artwork in your classroom when you can take your students to see the real thing? Physically viewing a work of art is a special experience that gives the students a chance to see true colors, investigate artwork from multiple perspectives, and get a grasp on the actual scale!
Creating art next to a piece made by a well-known artist is completely different than projecting an artwork on a SMART board or having a laminated copy in the classroom. Let your students create art next to professionally exhibited art inside an art gallery or museum for a full, immersive experience.
We love visiting local art galleries and museums! Keep reading to find out why we’re so passionate about these places and how they will benefit your students.
1. Museum Manners
Part of educating young artists is teaching students proper museum etiquette. This can start in the school hallways and art room. Students learn not to touch the walls as they transition from class to class to protect the artwork on display. Does “Look with your eyes, not your hands!” sound familiar? Another museum behavior to practice is how to respect the artist with kind and helpful critiques.
2. State Standards
Teaching your state’s visual arts standards is often mandatory. Fortunately, the visual art standards are interesting and relevant! The National Arts Standards pose essential questions: What is an art museum? How do the presenting and sharing of objects, artifacts, and artworks influence and shape ideas, beliefs, and experiences? How do objects, artifacts, and artworks collected, preserved, or presented cultivate appreciation and understanding? Visiting a local gallery or museum will allow students to explore these questions!
Here are some specific National Arts Standards a face-to-face visit can cover:
- VA: Pr6.1.Ka (Kindergarten)
Explain what an art museum is and distinguish how an art museum is different from other buildings.
- VA: Pr6.1.4a (Fourth Grade)
Compare and contrast the purposes of art museums, art galleries, and other venues, as well as the types of personal experiences they provide.
- VA: Pr6.1.6a (Sixth Grade)
Assess, explain, and provide evidence of how museums or other venues reflect the history and values of a community.
3. Museum Professionals
Students meet and interact with professionals in the museum field. Especially for high school students, this is a great way to show other arts-related career possibilities. It’s an introduction to museum life, and students can ask questions about various career opportunities. Younger students love to ask questions to museum staff too!
4. Meet Artists
Time it right and visit an art gallery or museum when an artist is giving a lecture. This is a prime opportunity for deeper career connections because students can ask professional artists questions directly. They can ask about their successes, struggles, and day-to-day work life. If the artist is local, students can visit other places where the artwork is exhibited with their families.
5. Budget Constraints
It’s no secret that art teachers are always on tight budgets. Research if your local galleries and museums cover transportation costs for school groups. Sometimes, admission is free or reduced as well. If you are short on budget and are having difficulty wrangling enough chaperones, try a virtual field trip or see if the museum will come to you! Many museums are thrilled to make school visits and bring a lesson or activity to do with your students.
6. Experience Variety
Field trips to galleries and museums offer students an escape from school into the world of art. Depending on the museums in your area, transport students to a prehistoric site with handmade vessels, an interactive art experience, or even a room full of artwork from the Old Masters. Before heading off on your voyage, assess your student’s interest in the art on display. Also, consider how your curriculum can set the trip up for success and help students unpack the experience afterward.
7. Museum Studio
My favorite space in art galleries and museums are stations that encourage artistic creation within an exhibition. Many museums also have studios for visitors to create art inspired by the artworks on display. Students love hands-on activities and time to chat with their classmates in between visiting quiet galleries. Often, the artwork created in these spaces can be taken home—what a memorable memento! Better yet, take their creations back to school to serve as artifacts during your debrief.
8. Build Character
The University of Arkansas’s College of Education and Health Professions analyzed K–12 school field trips to the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in 2013. The results shared that these field trips strengthened critical thinking skills, increased tolerance and empathy levels, and gave students a view of what it looks like to be a cultural consumer. These are all attributes we hope each student will develop in our classroom.
Taking students to art galleries and museums exposes them to in-person artwork. Physically standing in front of artwork makes it easier to see true colors, scale, and texture. Speaking to local curators, preparators, museum educators, docents, and local artists can give students a glimpse into multiple careers in the museum field. Visiting local galleries and museums can strengthen the bond between schools and the local art scene. Many of us remember our first museum trip to this day. Provide your students with a museum experience to remember for decades to come!
If you are looking for more ways to connect with local museums, peruse these resources from AOEU:
- 7 Innovative Ways for Art Teachers to Partner With a Local Museum
- “Connecting With Museum Educators (Ep. 316)”
- Partnering With Your Local Art Community Pack in PRO Learning
National Core Arts Standards (2015) National Coalition for Core Arts Standards. Rights Administered by the State Education Agency Directors of Arts Education. Dover, DE, www.nationalartsstandards.org all rights reserved.
NCAS does not endorse or promote any goods or services offered by the Art of Education University.
What is your most memorable art gallery or museum experience?
What art is your area known for that you can expose your students to?
Share a tip for planning a field trip or working with a gallery or museum.
Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.