September 17, 2018 (Detroit)—A record 73,239 students visited the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) on field trips last school year, an increase of almost 6,000 from the previous year. Of these, 29,124 were from Wayne County, 19,288 from Oakland County and 13,714 from Macomb County. The DIA provides free bus transportation and admission for residents of those counties, thanks to a tri-county millage passed in 2012.
“Students’ exploration of the history and culture found at the museum builds critical thinking skills, which are vital to academic success,” said Salvador Salort-Pons, DIA director. “Museum visits spark students' imaginations, encourage discovery, invite comparisons and connections and challenge students to step outside the familiar to experience a diversity of cultures and perspectives in ways that can’t be found in books, movies or online.”
Transportation costs have long been a major barrier for teachers wanting to take their students on field trips, but because the DIA arranges and pays for bus transportation, field trips have become a more viable option for Wayne, Oakland and Macomb county schools.
The museum offers field trips for PreK–12 classroom and homeschool groups, summer and recreational camps and community organizations. For a guided experience, DIA gallery teachers use inquiry-based and student-centered teaching strategies to facilitate learning. K–12 guided field trips explore art to build creative thinking and inspire curiosity and wonder through active, hands-on engagements, while supporting classroom curriculum learning outcomes. For teachers who prefer a non-guided tour, the museum provides helpful online teaching resources, including graphic organizers tied to various curriculum areas, lesson plans and writing prompts.
Feedback from teachers has been overwhelmingly positive. Dominick Perrone, an eighth-grade English and American history teacher at Derby Middle School in Birmingham, said: “Students really see the way that artists from various cultures show their ways of living. Students have a chance to get out of their routine in their everyday learning at school to examine what it means to be human and how our cultural differences are expressions of life in a particular place or among a particular group of people that are meant to fulfill the basic hallmarks of humanity that bind us all together as one.”
Libby Fortune, a K-5 art teacher in the Anchor Bay school district in Macomb County, said: “The kids think about how an artist constructs a sculpture or how they make a certain brushstroke. It is thrilling to observe the students thinking about the artistic process and how they could apply it in their own work. When kids see different ways to solve problems and learn there can be multiple solutions, we can encourage them to use those strategies in other aspects of their lives and education.”
“I love that students are exposed to a wide variety of art and even just the knowledge that the DIA exists,” said art teacher Elisabeth Lennox, who teaches at both Jefferson and Washington Elementary schools in Wyandotte Public Schools. She brings more than 150 students to the DIA each year and says, “One of the things my students are surprised at is the history and just how old a lot of the art is. They get to see a vast array of artwork from Europe, Africa, the middle east, contemporary artists and everything in between. Our 5th grade teachers draw on past and current social studies lessons to make cross-curriculum connections.”