Blog: The Educated Reporter

Flipping Classrooms: Indoors and Out

Exploring the North Carolina Museum of Art Park in Raleigh. (Flickr/chucka_nc)

The North Carolina Museum of Art is offering students a way to experience and learn about art firsthand, and outside the confines of a traditional classroom model.

The “flipped field trip” approach at NCMA has students explore art with their classmates at home, then meet up with students from other schools at the museum to take part in a interactive virtual exhibition. The kids then use that experience as a launching pad to continue creating their own work back at home, reports Education Week’s Curriculum Matters blog:

The result is “Artists in Process,” an effort to create a “flipped museum” that will engage students more effectively than a typical field trip would, according to Emily Kotecki, Distance Learning Educator at NCMA.

“Just like a classroom is not a one-size-fits-all experience, the museum should not be a one-size-fits-all experience,” Kotecki said. “We wanted to give a lot more choice to the students to deepen the connection that they have to art, [and] personalize the learning for themselves.”

The museum’s approach follows that of a “flipped” classroom: Students work independently at home using computers, then spend the face-to-face time with teachers going deeper into the content or working on projects that would traditionally have constituted the “homework.” Flipped classrooms are gaining in popularity nationally, as schools look for ways to provide students with more challenging and individualized learning experiences. (You can find out more about flipped classrooms at our Online Learning Topics Page.)

Over at Slate’s Future Tense blog, writer Chris Berdik followed students through the North Carolina museum’s “flipped field trip” experience and offers some excellent details about how it works (and some of the accompanying challenges for teachers and students):

According to Lauren Rieth, an art teacher from rural Davie County whose school was paired with one in the city of Fayetteville, the program gave her students the chance to practice thinking for themselves, beyond meeting the demands of a teacher’s assignment—a degree of freedom that often has her students “shaking in their boots.”

“The hardest part of teaching is that students have to flounder a bit sometimes,” she said. “And you have to let them.”

I wrote last year about some surprising benefits to field trips, so I was particularly interested to read about this example of one that’s experimenting with a more innovative format. And Lillian Mongeau, writing for The Hechinger Report in May, found that students in Vallejo, California believed field trips were a benefit that should be protected when putting together school budgets:

The idea to spend more money on field trips — students also asked for new textbooks, yummier lunches and more afterschool activities — came from students at the district’s alternative high school … Tiffany Dottson, 17, said she’d only been on one field trip — to the California Hall of Sciences in San Francisco — during her years in Vallejo’s public schools. But she recalled it vividly.

“Probably it would have helped me,” stay out of trouble to go on more field trips, Tiffany said. “I’m a hands-on learner.”