Susan Riley | April 2016

5 Tips for an Artful Field Trip

It’s field trip season and that means lots of students, teachers and parents are headed out to gain some new experiences in their area.  While this might mean hopping on a school bus and traveling off-site, it could also mean virtual field trips, Skype calls or Google Hangouts with other artists or classrooms, or even a pop-up museum that travels to your school.  All of these different options kind of remind me of a buffet for educators.  Which to choose?  What will be most meaningful to our students?  What’s cost-effective?  And how can I make sure that this is time well-spent?

Enter: The Artful Field Trip

One of the ways we can answer most, if not all, of these questions is by facilitating an Artful Field Trip.  This is a trip that provides purposeful, arts integration learning opportunities in a content and an arts area simultaneously.   That means that you can still go on your planned field trip to the zoo, but when you go, students are ready to be active participants in discovery and creation in and through the arts.

Almost any field trip can become an artful learning experience!  Obviously, if we go to a museum or the symphony, we’re completely immersed in the arts.  But what about if you travel to a historic site?  Or if you take a trip to the local library?  Here are 5 strategies you can use to integrate the arts whenever you’re taking a trip:

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5 Tips for an Artful Field Trip, Education Closet


Inside Out Scavenger Hunt

Instead of providing students with a list to find on your travels, have them create a list of things that they feel are important about what they will be viewing and then seek them out on the trip.  Students can document where it was found and then create create a map sharing each “treasure” that they discovered.

I see myself…  

When viewing specific exhibits or areas in the field trip, have students create a self-portrait of how they see themselves expressed in the exhibit or area explored.


Develop a list of trends or themes you’d like students to explore on the field trip.  Where do they see that trend in what they are experiencing?  Create a tweet to describe that using the hashtag #trendingnow.  Just a note: students don’t actually have to tweet it out.  They can put it on a piece of paper and use “paper tweets” or post-it notes in the classroom.

Artifact Observation

Ask students to select one piece or exhibit that stands out to them.  Carefully document and describe this piece.  Describe what they see, what questions they have, what it’s made out of and how it was made, and who made and used it.  Student can then sketch it out or create a frozen picture of it as a tableau with their group while someone takes a picture.

Vine Postcards

Students create a 6-second movie postcard that documents their field trip experience to friends and family at home.  It could be live action, musical, stop-motion animation, or a slideshow of images – the choices are endless!

You CAN learn in and through the arts, no matter what the subject or location!  With a little bit of planning and guidance, students can take their field trip to a whole new level.

Sound off: are you going on a field trip this year?  Where are you going and how could you use these strategies?

About the Author

Susan Riley is the founder and CEO of The Institute for Arts Integration and STEAM. She focuses on teacher professional development in arts integration, STEAM, 21st century learning skills, and technology. She is also a published author and frequent presenter at national conferences on Arts Integration and STEAM education. Susan holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education from the prestigious Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ and a Master of Science in Education Administration from McDaniel College in Westminster, MD. She lives in Westminster, MD with her husband and daughter. Email Susan