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Arts Toolkit

Arts Toolkit: Multi-Arts Tools

What Makes an Arts Field Trip Fabulous?

Fabulous Field Trips

Developed by Jeffrey Jamner, director of school programs for the Kentucky Center, Louisville

For many, a typical drama field trip means attending a play, touring a theater, or maybe even talking with actors and directors after a play. But for others, a drama field trip might be a visit to an art museum where students create a tableau based on a painting. Or a trip to a nature center where students dramatize historical events that might have occurred there. You, too, can make the world your stage by organizing a Fabulous Field Trip (FFT), and here’s how.


Field-Tested Field Trips

Arts Academy teachers participate in a drawing exercise at Riverside, The Farnsley-Moremen Landing, a historic home in Louisville.

First, it helps to know that these arts-based field trips have been field-tested by teachers and artist-trainers over the past several years. The arts-based field trip has evolved out of two professional development seminar programs for teachers presented by the Kentucky Center: Kentucky Institutes for Arts in Education and Arts Academies. The Kentucky Center developed this highly effective approach using the arts to further explore and respond to the field trip experience.

“The arts move learning from the third person to the first person.” —Kentucky Commissioner of Education Gene Wilhoit

Goals of arts-based field trips include

  • deepening and broadening the educational impact of a field trip.
  • making connections across the curriculum.
  • providing a more powerful way to experience and remember the field trip.
  • increasing the immediacy of content for the student.
  • encouraging more focused and detailed observation.
  • providing an effective way to teach arts content.

Reasons for an arts-based field trip include

  • engaging more of the multiple intelligences, providing numerous entry points for discovery and learning.
  • allowing for different perspectives.
  • encouraging more focused observation.
  • generating an empathetic response.

For a more in-depth explanation of the benefits of an arts-based field trip, see Field Trips: A Critical Element in Learning.


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How To Plan an Arts-Based Field Trip

At the Kentucky Institutes for Arts in Education and the Arts Academies, the artist-trainers help to select the field trip site and plan the trip’s goals and activities. The process they use is a good model that teachers can adapt to their own field trip planning.

Since several art forms are taught at these seminars (two at Academies, five at the Institutes), the artists must look at how they schedule the day to accommodate more than one art form. Artists usually consider several options:

  • team teaching involving more than one art form.
  • rotations; e.g., group 1 does dance from 9:00 to 10:00 and drama from 10:00 to 11:00.
  • time built in for participants to just “explore” or to explore in an unguided way, but with certain tasks assigned.
  • taking the official tour (or not).
  • opportunities to respond through an art form: Is there an adequate space to do drama in a public setting?
  • opportunities for reflection.
  • materials (sketchbooks, disposable cameras, clay, props, journals, musical instruments, tape recorders).
  • preparation of participants: What should they know and do ahead of time to get the most out of the experience?
  • follow-up on the next teaching day.

For example, here are some ways to use drama in a field trip:

  • Students improvise a scene at a historic site.
  • Students create an interactive tableau based on a painting at a museum.
  • Students create a “living forest” in which they tell the story from the point of view of something found in nature.
  • Students develop character studies in public places, such as the town square or an airport.
  • Students study period costumes to learn about history.
  • Students use animal characteristics in a dramatization after observing animals at the zoo.

Ideally, the artists meet at the site, if they are not familiar with it, and with the staff to discuss the day. This gives the artists an opportunity to ask whether there are spaces for the participants to perform for each other, whether they can bring in outside supplies or musical instruments, or whether there are indoor options for inclement weather.

In the one-week Arts Academies, the field trip is on the fifth (final) day and is a culmination of all the participants have worked on. At the two-week Institutes, the field trip is on the fifth of ten days, so there is more opportunity to build on that experience and work toward different culminating activities on the final day.


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What Teachers Say

“Incredible! I had been to Blackacre before, but not like that. I especially enjoyed our Underground Railroad experience.”

“A day I’ll never forget.”

“It taught me how much role playing can teach.”

“I’ll never look at nature (or humans) in the same way.”


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What Does a Fabulous Field Trip Look Like?

You’ll find descriptions of a variety of FFTs (Fabulous Field Trips) within the Arts Toolkit. These examples of successful field trips, which used the arts to deepen the field trip experience at Kentucky Institutes for Arts in Education and Arts Academies, use two or more of the four art forms at a variety of sites across Kentucky. Feel free to adapt these ideas to sites in your area or as an idea bank for creating FFTs of your own.


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