I don't go back to class for another week, so I've been filling my days with the kinds of stuff that is hard to get done when the semester is in full swing: I took the car in for a tune-up, went to the dentist, deep-cleaned the fridge...that kind of thing.
But I also went on a field trip with my son's 4th grade class to the Smithsonian American Art Museum. I am so grateful any chance I get to go on a trip with them. Especially an art museum! Especially THIS art museum! Just to be in that building (the third oldest in DC, home of the first patent office, locale of President Lincoln's inaugural ball, home of the stunning new Kogod Courtyard) is enough reason to go, and then the art collection is jaw-dropping. Check it out here.
These fourth graders are getting pretty sophisticated. They were asked to walk through the museum for 1 1/2 hours, pausing to contemplate about 12 different works of art, and they did it. When they were asked for their input, they said things like, "The colors are vibrant." I don't think I knew the word "vibrant" in the 4th grade, ya know? They were great kids, a pleasure to tour with, and I think most of them gained a lot from the experience.
Since I am studying the education of little guys, they were on my mind as we made our way through the SAAM. Could I bring Kindergarteners here? What would I show them? How long could they last? What could I do in advance to prepare them?
My children's school takes the Kindergarteners to the farm. (And that's a terrific field trip. We all love it. Nothing wrong with going to the farm.) It's not until 4th grade that they take them to the art museum. And that seems reasonable to me.
But I didn't always live in the shadow of the Washington Monument. I'm a relative newcomer here, so I'm keenly aware of what a gift it is to be able to hop on a school bus, gaze at a few American treasures, and be back in time for lunch. You can go to a farm in virtually any corner of the US, but there are unique opportunities available when you live here.
So, how could I prepare a group of really young students to get something out of a resource like the SAAM? Perhaps we could study a particular medium, and try it many times ourselves, and talk about the life of a particular artist....and THEN go on the field trip. And only see two or three things before we regroup in the Courtyard (which is its own artistic achievement) to engage in a portable art project of some kind, and a snack. Then perhaps view one more work, then get back on the bus. And go on a January weekday, as we did, when we pretty much had the place to ourselves.
Have you tried taking little ones to a place like this, that requires prepping? How did it go? Does it sound like a good use of time and energy?