Education researchers found that field trips to cultural institutions have significant benefits for students beyond educational aspects.
“We found that students who attended a school tour at Crystal Bridges demonstrated stronger critical thinking skills, displayed higher levels of tolerance, had more historical empathy and developed a taste for being a cultural consumer in the future,” Jay Greene said. “We also found that these benefits were much larger, in general, for students from rural areas or high-poverty schools, as well as minority students.”
The team announced the results of a study analyzing the impact of school field trips to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville on students in grades K-12. Greene, Brian Kisida and Dan Bowen surveyed nearly 11,000 students and 500 teachers at more than 120 schools.
Kisida said, “This research is the first large-scale, randomized, controlled trial measuring what students learn from school tours of an art museum.”
The study is part of a larger research initiative that Greene and Kisida are pursuing to shed light on the effects of arts and culture in education. The research offers implications for everyone from parents to policymakers.
“Our research suggests that students actually retain a great deal of factual information from their tours, as students who received a tour of Crystal Bridges were able to recall details about the paintings they had seen at very high rates,” Greene said.
For example, 88 percent of the students who saw the Eastman Johnson painting, At the Camp – Spinning Yarns and Whittling, knew when surveyed weeks later that the painting depicts abolitionists making maple syrup to undermine the sugar industry, which relied upon slave labor. Among students who saw Thomas Hart Benton’s Ploughing It Under, 79 percent could recall that it is a depiction of a farmer destroying his crops as part of a Depression-era price support program.
“Culturally enriching field trips are in decline in public education, and museums across the country report a steep drop in school tours,” Greene said. “This research shows that the trips have significant benefits and particularly for disadvantaged students. These results should be an important consideration in the assessment and distribution of resources.”