Beth Kilgore invited a class of second-graders at Eisenhower Elementary School to take a virtual field trip with her on Thursday afternoon.
After showing a video of a school bus to simulate making the trip, the Dubuque art teacher welcomed her students to their destination for the day — the Dubuque Museum of Art.
“Welcome to the art museum,” said Kilgore, who wore a nametag that read “Docent Beth.” “I’m so glad you’re here.”
In a typical year, second-graders in Dubuque Community Schools would pay a visit to the local art museum as part of the institution’s Arts Trek program. But with the COVID-19 pandemic preventing students from physically coming to the museum this year, officials decided to bring the museum to them by offering a virtual tour. The district’s second-graders are watching the tour videos this spring.
“We kind of wanted to give them a sense that even if they couldn’t be here, they could be with us in spirit,” said Margaret Buhr, the museum’s director of education.
On Thursday afternoon, Kilgore explained to students the different rules of visiting a museum — listening to the docent, using quiet voices, not touching the artwork — before starting up the tour video.
Roux Conlon Loar, a museum Board of Trustees member, and Christine Schiesl, the museum’s membership and visitor services associate, served as the virtual tour guides for the visit, explaining the kinds of art in the museum and the ways art is used.
The guides homed in on four pieces and explained more about each work — a photo, two paintings and a sculpture. Throughout the tour, Kilgore would pause the video to ask students questions and get them discussing with their peers.
“What are some of the feelings that this picture makes you think about?” she asked the students as they viewed a painting with two faces painted in red and blue hues.
Buhr said that though students in the district have not been allowed on field trips this year because of the pandemic, she still felt it was important to give the students an experience with the museum.
She noted that art can be a transformative experience for students and can teach them about problem-solving and self-expression.
“We still wanted to cover the same issues and spark the same interest, and what I’m hoping is that many will come down with their families” she said.
Kilgore said that while taking a virtual tour isn’t the same as actually going to a museum, the tour covered several standards in the curriculum. She said she hopes that through the virtual visit, students learned about the different ways to view artwork and made a connection to the pieces.
“If we have a connection with art, then we can certainly appreciate it, and we can learn that we can create it on our own, in addition to appreciating what other people have done,” she said.
Second-grader Daisy Miller said that watching the video helped her feel like she was actually at the art museum.
“I thought it was really cool how much art we saw,” she said.
Eleanor Callahan, also in second grade, said one thing she noticed was that in some cases, it looked as though the artists had made mistakes but then fixed them — an observation that formed the basis of what she took from the activity.
“Even though your picture is bad, you can make it something else,” she said.
Second-grader Jack Armstrong said he liked getting to see the different paintings and also pretending to ride the bus to the museum. He said that after the day’s virtual tour, he would want to go another art museum.
“I really, really, really, really like to see art, and there’s really cool pictures, and that’s kind of why I like to see art,” he said.