November and December in the past have been popular months to take school-aged children on field trips. Science classes will go to museums to see fossils or out into the field to experience wildlife in its natural habitat, English classes will see plays, and art classes will visit galleries. One of the benefits of being a language teacher is that we are able to do almost all of these! Art and culture museums, and even science museums, will feature information on cultures, paintings by famous artists, or Spanish-speaking docents. If you are fortunate enough, you may live near a museum such as Museo del Barrio in New York, which focuses exclusively on the Spanish-speaking cultures of the city.
Obviously, the pandemic has halted
Probably the most similar to what you would experience during a regular field trip are the many virtual guided visits that museums, art enthusiasts, and others have created via YouTube or the museum’s official website. Here is just one small example of a virtual visit (in French) to the Louvre.
As you can see (even if you don’t speak French), the presenter goes through the highlights of the Louvre, but also goes into a docent-level amount of detail from his workshop, so this video can also do a good job recreating the experience of a hands-on activity many museums will offer to school groups. YouTube has several videos like this, so you can easily design an activity based around the history or aesthetics of artifacts found in the museum.
There are also several “walking tours” on YouTube that are simply videos of someone with a camera walking around galleries of world-famous museums. Especially for more novice learners, this is a great way for them to be exposed to art. Once they have seen an exhibit, teachers can have them give their basic opinions, talk about the colors, or other aspects of art.
Google Arts and Culture
One great trove of information that is not used enough in the language classroom is Google Arts and Culture. Here, many world-class museums and cities have opened themselves up to tours, both in traditional website formats like you would see in the “exhibition” section of a museum’s website, and in the style of Google Street View, where students can tour the galleries at their own pace digitally.
Here is just one example I have actually recently used in my classroom. When learning about social justice in Spanish IV, we spent about 3 days to a week studying Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers. The National Parks Service has made his house and office a National Monument, and earlier this year released a virtual tour of the grounds and interior.
For a digital lesson, I turned my students into digital curators. They took a tour of the house, and, using the Snipping Tool on their devices, took screenshots of artifacts, pictures, etc, that they found inside the house. They then connected these artifacts to how they relate to Chavez’s life and work. Not only is this a fun, interactive activity, it helps students ground their learning in reality, to see that it has weight and has had an impact we can still see in the real world. Even beyond virtual learning, as a trip to California might be a bit much from Baltimore, this will continue to be an activity I do to help students see what they have learned come to life.
This is obviously only a small sample of the possibilities. As always, we welcome you to comment on our social media, or even write a guest blog if you are interested. Please use our contact form for more information.