Student tours at the Wiregrass Museum of Art delve into more than just an appreciation for art. There’s also science, language, and math.
As it continues an arts education partnership with Dothan City Schools for the 2022-2023 school year, the Wiregrass Museum of Art (WMA) is using its resources to target crucial educational benchmarks for specific grades. Through the museum’s gallery tours and hands-on learning, art educators focus on identified learning needs for students in first, fourth and sixth grades, according to a WMA news release.
On tours of WMA’s galleries, students are led by museum educators and trained docents as they learn about select pieces on display and are encouraged to ask questions and share their thoughts in a fun small group setting. This method of content framing questioning boosts literacy, comprehension, and observational skills, which amplify students’ academic understanding and interpersonal abilities, according to the museum.
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Tours for fourth-graders will elevate STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) learning strategies, where art and science collide for an arts integration tour. After students tour the galleries, they create a STEAM based art project, like DIY kaleidoscopes or line plot cityscapes. Sixth-grade students will take tours all about visual art, to encourage their inner creativity and build on their visual arts lexicon and historical understanding. Students will tour the galleries and then create a work of art inspired by an artist or specific work they encountered on tour – projects designed to instill confidence in artistic skills and inspire students to enroll in advanced art classes at Dothan Preparatory Academy.
First-graders will visit the museum in the 2023 spring semester for literacy-focused tours, which place special emphasis on language arts and literacy in response to the Alabama Literacy Act. Students will create a work of art inspired by a work on display and engage in a literacy activity, such as crafting an artist statement about their work, completing a sequencing worksheet, or writing a short story about the piece they created. WMA will also incorporate other strategies during the lesson, like word bubbles, retelling directions, and emphasizing good conversational skills, which are also aligned with the Alabama State Standards for Art and Language Arts.
“WMA’s student tours are an amazing option for a local field trip for free,” said Crystal Forehand, a visual arts teacher at Kelly Springs Elementary School. “The tours provide an engaging art experience for students of all academic levels. The docents maintain students’ attention and their hands-on lessons make everyone feel like an artist.”
Participation in these tours benefit teachers, too. Teachers observe WMA art educators leading an art lesson with their students, learning each activity’s challenges for classroom and time management, in order to model the activity for their students back in the classroom. Teachers also receive lesson plans with relevant Alabama State Standards, to reiterate and expand on ideas learned at the museum.
“We developed our tour program based on conversations with area educators and administrators to ensure that we created an experience that is fun and engaging for everyone, including teachers,” Brook McGinnis, WMA’s education director, said. “By inviting groups into our classroom studio, educators observe how we lead an art activity, including how we face challenges and then triumph. Our hope in doing this is that they feel more confident leading art activities with their students. We want students and teachers to walk away feeling inspired to create in their own classrooms and beyond.”
In this partnership, Dothan City Schools provides the museum up to $20,000 to support a portion of the administrative and operating costs for tours for all students at these grade levels. The museum’s Bus on Us program, a field trip transportation reimbursement program, is also being utilized to remove barriers to participation. Bus on Us serves all Dothan City Schools and Houston County Schools, providing up to eight reimbursed buses for field trips to each school in the two systems. The program is supported by a grant from the Windgate Foundation with additional sponsorship from area businesses AngelTrax, Lewis-Smith Supply, Seay, Seay & Litchfield, and SmartBank.
Field trips and tours at WMA are available for public, private, and homeschool groups throughout the year. To schedule a tour, contact Alexandria Turner, school programs coordinator and art educator, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
WMA also provides free, Alabama State Standards-aligned lesson plans on its website at www.wiregrassmuseum.org/lesson-plans/. For more information about WMA’s annual arts programming and education initiatives, call 334-794-3871 or visit wiregrassmuseum.org.