Lesson Plans: Art Museum Field Trip

Art Museum Field Trip

This page is dedicated to Sara Grow - a university pre-service student teacher. Sara is writing a project for her art ed class about using art museums as a tool for instruction in the high school art classroom. If anyone has more success stories to share please send to Ken Rohrer. Note: ArtsEdNet Talk is now Teacher Art Exchange


Prepare your students by playing Greg Percy's "Hangin' Around (The Gallery)" - from Songs in the Key of Art #4


From Susan on Long Island:

Elementary Level: I take many classes to art museums every year.  I have found that students of all ages LOVE scavenger hunts.  After the docent has finished the tour, I break up the kids in teams and give them lists of things to find within the museum.  I rotate the #s on the lists so that team one starts looking for #1 on the list, while team two is looking for #2, for example, so that groups are not running around after the same items at the same time.  I always go to the exhibit before my classes to create this game.  Afterwards, in the classroom, I create another "game" for them.  They must create a piece of art or element (from the scavenger hunt) of their own from the piece of art that most remember or that inspired them.  Not copy, but they create original art from something they were forced to see (find) during the scavenger hunt. 


From Lynn:

Elementary Level - High School: I  have great lesson that you can use from elementary to high school when you go to the museum. We talk about the lesson the day before we go. The day we leave each student receives an instruction sheet and three pieces of illustration board that are the size of 3X5 cards that they can fit in their pockets. They are to pick one painting in the museum. Then on one of the cards they are to reproduce the artwork (We use a regular pencil) on another card they are to draw what was happening before the painting was painted and on the other, what happened after the painting was created. It is a wonderful lesson that deals with the narrative of a work of art. You can extend and change this lesson in many ways. 


Since talking about the Art Museum Field trip ideas, it has sent my mind wandering. I suppose it would be interesting to take students to the museum with the idea that they are to study the set up, architecture and design of an exhibit in relation to the exhibit. Then bring them back to create a better museum or exhibit.


From Judy:

Middle School - High School: (In response to Lynn) This is not my original idea... I have seen it in magazines (although can no longer remember which ones) and also a coworker did this. Make a mock up museum using foam core boards (or any other kind of available materials). Have many different rooms - cut door ways going between the rooms. You decide just how big to make it (your own personal storage space may determine size). My coworker's was large enough that post card size prints could be tacked to the walls (maybe about 2' by 3'?). She used her "museum" a lot with the students as she had hundreds and hundreds of small prints (cut from magazines and postcard size). She also used it in teaching DBAE workshops -- we displayed our artsy name tags in the museum for critique.  Try a Shoe Box Gallery. Students study an artist via the Internet and collect images. They create a mini gallery of the work. 


Upon return from the museum - students could display images of their favorite works in the museum to talk about them. Maybe give each student a "room" to fill. Students could work in groups to present their museum trip if you have limited time and few rooms. The museum could be cleared for the next group to present. While initially it is a lot of work -- the rewards were great. I am wondering if you could even use some kind of slit construction so the museum could be flattened for storage? 


Thinking about how the work was presented is a great idea... and having students come up with alternative suggestion gets them thinking (do the works tell a "story"? are they arranged aesthetically? are they grouped by medium? or by time? and so forth). Great career based lesson, too. 


From San D:

High School Level: The biggest problem I can see with integrating art museums is that schools have cut way back on field trip opportunities due to budget constraints. What I have done to sort of bypass that is I wrote "field trip experiences" as part of the curriculum which allows me to take students to museums. I can go twice a year, so since I teach in New Jersey about 40 minutes from New York City we naturally go to NY. I make one of the experiences "old school" i.e. The Metropolitan, and one "new school", i.e. galleries in Soho. I like the excitement of the kids' responses to the 'new school' work (as they seem freer to talk about what they see... no one has declared anything 'important', i.e. like Rembrandt in the Metropolitan). I also like the awe in kids when they actually see 'originals'. Also the whole experience of going into NYC counts towards the museum experience... I mean who wouldn't want to sit on the stairs of the Metropolitan and look for Candice Bergen or Woody Allen? (both of whom have passed me on the street right outside Central Park). I have also taken students to the Cloisters when we studied Medieval Art... and nothing beats that museum in the fall. Not only did we enjoy the work, but we brought our sketchpads and drew in the medieval garden.


From John:

High School Museum Research Lesson: To integrate art museums into my 9th grade art history, I've done a museum project with them. Each student selects a different museum (major world museums) and writes a business letter to them telling them about the project and asking for postcards and information about the museum collection. Then they study a different aspect of their museum each week for the term (9 weeks) while we continue to talk about the progression of art history. Topics for the weeks have included (as selected by the students for the most part): culture/traditions, folktales, food, the permanent collection, recent special exhibits, and architecture of the museum. The wrap up for the unit is to have a "Museum Symposium" lasting 2-3 days where everyone shares key things about their museum (key pieces from the collection, special exhibits) and shares food from the culture with everyone in the class. I usually do this in the spring, after they all have some understanding about museums and can handle independently researching the topics while we continue to do time periods/artists in class. I always make sure they visit a local museum during their study as well, to be able to ask questions and apply their knowledge to another space. It's a great way to get more material covered than can normally be done in class, and most of the museums have sent back posters and postcards that the students love to get and take with them!


From Michal:

High School: I have taken my students to the museum many times and the first and foremost thing I have found is to make sure they have an assignment in hand before they get off the bus! I have had students start off with a scavenger hunt. They have a list of visuals they must find in various paintings. Step two is to find 2-3 paintings I have pre-chosen and write a critique on each painting, then award them various prizes. Step three is to choose their favorite artwork, describe it in detail, then tell why they like this one so well. When we return to the classroom students will compare answers, and often get in a debate over the answers. If time allowed I would love to be able to take them on return visits to visually defend their paintings and allow others to see what they see. ~Michal,  K-12 Kansas Art Teacher


From Marvin Bartel

All Levels: In addition to what is done at the museum, consider asking them to notice and nominate a beautiful site or view and nominate an ugly site or view along the route that they see while on the bus trip to and from the museum. They can make a quick sketch and a brief description.


If you know the bus route, you could ask them to take special note of several sites along the way. Give them a work sheet to complete during the trip to and from the museum. The work sheet builds awareness for the best and worst examples you can identify along the route.


Visual literacy means becoming more aware of how our built and natural surroundings change us. (From Getty TeacherArtExchange post February 21, 2007). 


museum From Donnalyn Shuster - Gallery Walk:

For Middle School: Donnalyn had her students prepare for a museum visit by having a "gallery Walk" in her school. She displayed prints throughout the building. See Lesson Plan doc (inspired by Jennifer Mattot - Liverpool Central School District, Liverpool, NY). Lesson Plan is a Word doc. Lesson can be adapted to other grade levels. Donnalyn is a member of ArtsEducators Yahoo list.


From Donnalyn Shuster - Students Prepare a Mini Museum/Gallery:

For Middle School. Donnalyn has her students make a mini museum. These included research on selected artists. A culminating activity would be the field trip to the museum or gallery. See Lesson Plan. doc Donnalyn enhanced the lesson at the end of the unit as students had to present the gallery and field questions from the audience at the "opening" of the show. (Click image for larger view)


Of course, they also had refreshments as no opening is complete with out food! "Knight Gallery" is the name of her unit plan (named after school mascot - Knights).


Here are some online resources to help in your planning:

Check the web site of the museum you are visiting for teacher packets and downloads. Each Museum will have information on their site to help you plan a successful visit. Many have Scavenger hunt worksheets/handouts already prepared that you can adapt to your needs. If you are doing a Virtual Field Trip and need an online lesson for your students (but do not have a school web site)- Let Incredible Art Department know. Your lesson can be put on the Web site so your students can "click and go". Email Ken Rohrer if this interests you.


Going to a Museum? A Teacher's Guide (Archive) - This World Wide Web site includes a compilation of lesson plans written by teachers in the "Museums and Education" course offered in Northern Virginia. Timeline - sample lessons and more (Archive). Here is a very good one for African Art (Archive).


National Gallery of Art Classroom -- Access lessons and resources by curriculum, topic, or artist.


Virtual Field Trips and Web Museums (Archive) - resources from a Professional Development Workshop prepared by Midge Frazel.


Teaching with Works of Art - Carlos Art Museum, Emory University. See the Object Analysis Worksheet.


Plan a Trip - tips from Museum Spot



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