We went to the Orlando Museum of Art to see a special exhibit of Hudson River School paintings, and our attention was captured by a couple of school groups. I was pleased that the museum was busy with school children, but disappointed, as I've been with most school field trips, in what they were able to do. The docent explained that grant money and school time is only available if they show that they’re meeting certain school curriculum goals, such as “uses deductive skills,” so they design the art activities around these. They also try to do a lot of hands-on work, which has a point, but I still think that 10 minutes of “creating a landscape” by taping together pieces of paper has limited value and could be done back at school instead of in the museum where they could instead spend time looking at the landscape paintings!

I would never make it as a teacher: my lesson plan for such a field trip would include telling the students to choose a painting and look at it for five minutes in complete silence. I've been told that five minutes is a long time for school children, but when I tried it, I found the picture to be so much more interesting that I think the students should have that opportunity. In groups, they’re not encouraged to spend any significant amount of time actually looking at anything.

This is why one of the only school field trips I’ve really thought worthwhile was the elementary school “gifted class” trip to the Living Seas at EPCOT, where the kids were free to choose what they wanted to do, and my group spent 15 minutes of their precious time at one window of the aquarium, just watching—and commenting on—the fish. If children are going to be rushed from one activity to another, with no time to observe, to absorb, and to consider, then let's not waste time and money misleading them. It's nothing short of fraud, under such circumstances, to let them, their parents, and taxpayers believe they've experienced anything important of what a museum has to offer.
Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, September 30, 1999 at 6:05 pm | Edit
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Tom, I apologize for deleting your comment, because some of it was quite interesting. However, it was only marginally related to this post, and in a couple of places content and language made it unacceptable.

Posted by SursumCorda on Thursday, February 16, 2006 at 10:34 am
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