Why this matters: Providing access to cultural education experiences helps students become creative and critical thinkers.
By Amy Mitchell
You never know what type of cultural experience will most profoundly affect a young person’s life. And while the cultural experience is important, what is just as important (and possibly more so) is ensuring the chance for them to have the experience.
Veronica Terrana, a literacy facilitator at Matthews Elementary, knows that cultural field trips “expose kids who would never otherwise see these places to the wonders of the world around them.”
“They are foundational experiences that make them part of our collective culture,” said Terrana. “My own children get to do so many things and have had so many experiences. I am fortunate that I have the privilege to take them to these places and expose them to this kind of learning. It has helped their reading and content learning. All students deserve that, but not all parents can provide it. Cultural field trips level the playing field.”
This is where ASC steps in. We know that by investing in grade-level cultural experiences for Charlotte-Mecklenburg students, we’re helping to level the playing field for all. This school year, more than 30,000 local students will participate in cultural field trips, thanks to Howard Levine renewing his $100,000 commitment to ASC to support field trips and thanks to The Leon Levine Foundation donating $100,000 to provide field trip opportunities to middle school students.
Seventh grade students in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) will visit the Levine Center for the Arts to explore two of the cultural destinations in the center: Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture and Mint Museum Uptown.
Fifth graders will attend a performance of “Endless Possibilities,” a performance tailored for 10- and 11-year-olds and featuring Opera Carolina, Charlotte Ballet and Charlotte Symphony in Belk Theater at Blumenthal Performing Arts Center.
And, with funding from ASC, third grade students will visit one of the following historic sites: Historic Latta Plantation, Historic Rosedale, Rural Hill, Charlotte Museum of History, Mint Hill Historical Society and James K. Polk State Historic Site.
We don’t know which of these experiences will resonate most with students years from now. But by exposing them to different types of cultural offerings at multiple points during their formative years, we do know these field trips will help them grasp the connection between creativity and education.
It’s what we’ve heard from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg residents and teachers who shared their memories of how class field trips impacted their lives.
“Cultural field trips are important because they provide wonderful engaging experiences that children never forget,” said CMS employee Wendy Ventresca, whose first trip to the zoo was on an elementary school trip in upstate New York. “I don’t remember what I learned in math, science, or art in elementary school. I remember the zoo!”
Some field trips are memorable because they connect curriculum concepts to the real world, said Charlotte resident Katie Foote, who recalls taking class trips to Fort Fisher as a child in Wilmington.
“The touch pool and big fish tank were awesome,” Foote said. “We also walked some of the trails and talked about the coastal ecology. It was a great way to be aware of plants and animals.”
Other trips stand out because they make you care about something you never thought you would, said Malone Lockaby, a graduate of Northwest School of the Arts in Charlotte.
“I love the arts, and was never one for science, but Discovery Place is special,” she said. “It’s an experience that makes children and adults get excited about science and learning.”
Cultural field trips can also open students’ eyes to careers they may not have considered, said Zac Vinson, director of education at Historic Rural Hill. Vinson credits a field trip to the Schiele Museum in Gastonia as the event that shaped who he is today.
He still remembers a man dressed in buckskin clothing, with long hair and a black beard, made a spear point from a piece of flint.
“The American Indians and early pioneer settlers were always my favorite things to read about,” he said. “And to see this man was a revelation to me. Here was a real embodiment of all my long-dead heroes, talking to my class. I am often struck with the notion that had I not been on that field trip and seen that man, then I would be doing something entirely different.”
But you don’t have to be an adult to realize the impact of cultural field trips, said La’Kisha Jordan, an educator at Community Charter School in Charlotte.
Students from Community Charter recently took a cultural field trip to Levine Center for the Arts to experience the Dance Theatre of Harlem exhibit at the Gantt Center, learn about dance from Ballet Master Keith Saunders, take in a short performance at Knight Theater and participate in a hands-on movement workshop.
How did the kids respond?
“Even our students who held a singular view of what defines athleticism expressed a new outlook on the physical rigor involved with dance,” she said.
That’s because, according to Sarah Lindberg, a visual arts teacher at Smithfield Elementary in Pineville, actual experiences “become part of you, they expand your thinking and bring so much joy!”
It’s why students need to have such experiences and why ASC works so hard to provide them.