Not Your Grandmother’s Fieldtrips

by DeeGee Lester, Education Director, the Parthenon

Embarking upon an exciting 2012-2013 school year, teachers and students anticipate moving beyond classrooms and textbooks, utilizing the enormous range and diversity of Nashville resources that can be matched by only a handful of American cities.

Consider our city’s wealth in resources. Just a sampling includes the cradle of country music and hall of fame, historic homes including a presidential site, Civil War sites, a botanical garden, several world-class art museums, the world’s only full-scale replica of the ancient Parthenon, the zoo, ballet, opera, and symphony. All of these are accessible as visual teaching tools and active learning experiences for Nashville students. These are not your grandmother’s fieldtrips.

For example, based on a successful partnership with Metro Schools during their 2010 Chihuly exhibit, Cheekwood will offer a system-wide education program during the Artober celebration (organized by the Metropolitan Nashville Arts Commission) this fall. Permanent Residents: Artists from Cheekwood’s Collection features a gallery with works by Tennessee artist Red Grooms who will be the highlighted artist for Metro Schools throughout the month. In preparation, Metro teachers are invited to work with Cheekwood, in preparation for introducing Grooms to their students and gaining in-depth knowledge that can be taken back to the classroom. In addition, Cheekwood offers free tours for school groups and a Red Grooms Teacher’s Guide.

Carol Crittenden, Coordinator of Visual and Performing Arts with Metro Schools is pleased with Cheekwood’s Artober focus on Red Grooms and the opportunity for children to create art based on the work of a living Tennessee artist. “It’s great for students to celebrate living artists and not just the masters from long ago.”

The integration of arts with various subject areas is a major focus for all area art museums. In addition to obvious field trip integration

for subject areas including social studies, visual arts, language arts (mythology, romantic poets), and theatre, the Parthenon utilizes the ancient foundations of mathematics and the visual impact of the building’s own iconic architecture to draw relationships between art and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). Whether experimenting with Pythagoras’ harmonics, studying geometric designs in pottery, exploring environmental effects on structures, highlighting math/Olympic ties, or showing connections between art and physics, the Parthenon opens the integration of art and STEM for teachers and students through tours, workshops and on-line lesson plans. This special relationship is highlighted at the end of the year with the awarding of the Parthenon’s Pythagoras Award to an outstanding STEM Academy or STEM Club.

The integration of subject areas, as opposed to the isolation of each subject, is a hallmark of the modern field trip or learning expedition. “Students no longer just sit and read about a subject, but get their hands around it. It is an effective way of learning,” says Lori Ward, Vice President of Communications at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center. TPAC education offers exciting and adventurous opportunities for learning through the arts that enhance all subject areas, and no child is turned away for an inability to pay.

In addition to the unforgettable opportunity for viewing live performances, students and teachers interact with performers through talk-back sessions, workshops, in-school visits, and focused study units. Last year, TPAC was selected to pilot Disney Musicals in Schools, providing opportunities for students in five Metro elementary schools to present 30-minute musicals based on Disney classics. Lisa Mitchell, Director of Education for Disney Theatrical Group said of the pilot program, “TPAC knocked it out of the park.” So successful was this innovative partnership between TPAC and Metro schools, that Disney has expanded the program nation-wide.

As students and teachers walk back into their classrooms this fall and prepare for a year of hard work and testing, they also enter knowing that amazing visual tools and resources that enhance classroom instruction are scattered throughout the city, eager to provide engaging learning opportunities far beyond anything they could have imagined.

cheekwood.org, fristcenter.org, parthenon.org, tpac.org

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