Art school trips: How to enhance your students' cultural experience

Thursday December 10, 2015

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There’s an incredibly simple way to let your art students gain independence and confidence in developing their views on art and ability to critique it, while giving them a trip to remember at the same time. And that’s taking them abroad on art school trips.

Many schools already know the value of this investment and produce students who can not only remember the fantastically fun time they had with their classmates abroad, but who learnt how to appreciate other cultures’ art and understand the context in which it was produced. Although classroom-based education is essential, this way of learning is incomparable to seeing the piece of art with their own eyes.

So, how do you enhance your students’ cultural experience during one of these trips?

Open their eyes to the culture of the city

Start off by letting them have their freedom. Dictating where the students can and can’t explore in their free time will restrict their creative thinking. Whereas letting them absorb their cultural surroundings will give them a new and different reverence to view art with.

However, to keep some order, provide guidance on what they could find in the destination city before setting off, so that students can research what they’d like to visit themselves. Perhaps include places they could visit in their free time that are well known for their art or history. For example, Café Comercial in Madrid is a historic café, dated back to 1887, which would truly give your students an insight into the Spanish culture. Plus, it holds art events and poetry readings.

Have fun while learning

You should set a balance for the students between enjoying the trip abroad and using the experience to learn as much as they can. So, while they’re viewing art, set them challenges or make use of technology to enable them to learn on the go. Sometimes the plaque describing the piece of art isn’t enough for students – they want to research who the person is in the portrait or the background of the artist who created a fascinating sculpture. Allow them to use their smartphones during the trip or pack some iPads for teams to use while they’re exploring.

You could even make this into a team challenge. For example, the winning team is who can find the most obscure fact about the artists in the Saatchi Gallery in London or about the Met Museum itself in New York. You could hold a pop quiz later in the day, which is also a great way to see how engaged they were.

A simple challenge that many students will love is to take selfies with 5 pieces of famous art over the trip. This will encourage them to seek the art out, plus they’ll enjoy posting evidence of their school trip on their own social media channels, which will act as a permanent reminder of what they saw and learned that day.

School trips will stay in your students’ memories for a lifetime, and so will the art they see on their trip. Take these few ideas for how to enhance their cultural experience and the trip will have even more of an impact.