The Pendleton Center for the Arts virtual fieldtrip program provides communication and interaction with and about local art to elementary school students. It encourages students to seek out artistic experiences both inside and outside of the classroom, and does so in a cost effective and accessible way for teachers and the school district.
Using Skype as a virtual interface, the virtual fieldtrip program includes three components that engage students’ interest in the arts: a gallery and facility tour, a hands-on art project, and direct communication with artists. It can be easily adapted to any classroom (or arts organization, for that matter) with the appropriate equipment- a classroom computer with a webcam, Skype, and an IWB or projector.
After participating in a Virtual Gallery Tour, students will be able to describe their personal responses to the artwork using the language of the visual arts
Step 1: Set Up Your Equipment
In the classroom:
Schedule a time and date with the arts organization or gallery of your choice. The PCA would love to hear from you, but a local organization is nice because students have the chance to physically visit and see their completed art. Treat the event like a regular fieldtrip and get the students excited about "going" somewhere.
Do a Skype test call, and not just the automated one that checks your speakers. Actually call and video chat with the arts organization beforehand.
Clear a space on the wall for the video feed to be projected onto, or, if you're lucky enough to have an interactive whiteboard (aka, Smart board or IWB) in your classroom, dust it off because your finally going to try it out (!)
Prepare all art supplies- this requires collaboration between the teacher and the art organization. Make sure both parties know what is going to happen in what amount of time. This is where preparation is REALLY awesome- communication too. Email, phone call, or Skype with the participating organization in advance to get all the specifics covered.
Step 2: Virtual Gallery Tour Itinerary
Because this program is largely adaptable to individual teacher and classroom needs, not every fieldtrip will follow the same itinerary. The following is a sample outline of a Pendleton Center for the Arts (PCA) virtual fieldtrip within a half hour time slot from 10:15 am to 10:45am. In this outline, both the teacher and the PCA tour guide have logged onto Skype, and the classroom is viewing a live feed of the tour guide from the PCA projected onto the classroom's interactive whiteboard.
Introduction (10:15 – 10:20)
The PCA tour guide introduces herself to the class and talks about the PCA facilities and resources. The tour guide explains what the class will be doing: “Today I am going to guide you through the PCA’s current art exhibit. You are encouraged to ask questions about the art you see; we will have time to discuss it in depth. Afterwards you will create your own piece of art based on what we have talked about.”
Gallery Tour and Discussion (10:20 – 10:30)
This is a quick tour. The guide will have two to three representative pieces chosen from the exhibit for the class to focus on. The guide should talk about the artist and the art, and take questions and comments from the class. If the class seems reluctant to participate, the guide should encourage idea sharing. The teacher can act as the connection between the guide and the students by calling on students who would like to speak and letting the guide know of any adjustments that need to be made.
Hands-on Art Project (10:30 - 10:43)
The prepared supplies for the project, which must be delivered to the classroom in advance, will be passed out to the students by the teacher. The PCA tour guide will lead the class through the project, demonstrating by making their own example, while the teacher provides any hands-on clarification that may be necessary in the classroom. During this time, the PCA tour guide should make the announcement that the teacher will select two to three finished projects from the class to be put on display at the PCA. Most likely the class will not finish their project in this amount of time. The students should be encouraged to take their time, continue working on the project and complete it thoughtfully instead of rushing. If it is discussed with the teacher beforehand, the class may be able to finish their project during a free time, recess, or at the next scheduled art time.
Invitation to the PCA (10:43 – 10:45)
To conclude the virtual fieldtrip, the students will be invited to visit the PCA in person (if possible). The guide should tell the students when the selected pieces from their class will be on display in the PCA and invite them to support their classmates by coming to see them. At this point, the guide can thank the classroom; say goodbyes; and both parties can log off of Skype.
Virtual Fieldtrip Follow Up
Immediately after the fieldtrip, the teacher should debrief their class by starting a conversation about the experience. What did the students see? What did they think? etc. It will also be the teacher’s responsibility to encourage the students to complete their projects and to select two to three pieces to deliver to and display at the PCA. Then, by the agreed upon date that was announced to the students, the PCA will display the chosen student projects in a designated area within the arts center. Again, the teacher can assist by reminding the students of the dates and encouraging them to support their classmates by visiting the PCA (if that's an option).
Step 3: One Happy Class
The National Endowment for the Arts’ Survey of Public Participation in the Arts (SPPA) reveals that over the last three decades student participation in school-based art education has decreased steadily (Rabkin, et al., 2011). In 2008, only 49.5% of 18-year-olds reported receiving any art education in school, down from 64.6% in 1982 (Rabkin, et al., 2011). Art programs are being cut throughout public schools due to lack of funding, creating generations of children with no exposure to the arts.
Research suggests that adult participation in the arts correlates strongly to childhood participation; in other words, those who were exposed to art as children are more likely to be involved in the arts as adults (Rabkin, et al., 2011). If children are never introduced to art they will not seek it out in their personal lives or communities, and this continues all the way into adulthood. Therefore, children’s art education is critical to the survival of community art.
By introducing your students to an art organization, you have encouraged them to be involved in art. Knowing, and even better seeing, that their art has been displayed in a gallery really cements this idea. Plus, now that you have done all that planning, coordinating and equipment set up, the second virtual fieldtrip is going to be a snap. Schedule another one for the art organization's next art exhibit.
Rabkin, N., Hedberg, E. C., & National Endowment for the, A. (2011). Arts Education in America: What the Declines Mean for Arts Participation. Based on the 2008 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts. Research Report #52. National Endowment For The Arts. Retrieved from http://www.eric.ed.gov/PDFS/ED516878.pdf