Bringing Your Own Travels Into the Classroom

Is your dedication to global education fueled in part by your love of international travel? Make use of those summer trips by finding inspiration for lesson plans everywhere you go!

PicabiaLast summer I spent a month traveling around Spain with my daughter (who teaches computer animation at an arts high school), and our visits to that country’s magnificent museums reaped lots of ideas for building global story exchanges around visual art. One evening, in Madrid’s Reina Sofia Museum, I discovered the pictured avant-garde “portrait” that Francis Picabia made of Tristan Tzara, and the wheels in my story-exchange-brain started turning.

I took some photos, scribbled some notes, and when I got home, I built an avant-garde self-portrait lesson around the piece. A few weeks later, I workshopped it with teachers at Blue Planet Writers’ Room’s Summer Institute. The lesson involves introducing students to the Picabia–and the avant-garde movement–and then having them create “self-portraits” in which they represent themselves through symbols, words, and images. They can draw the self-portraits–or they can cut out the various elements from magazines or colored paper. As part of a global story exchange with a group in another country, they can share these creations with their international partners as is, or with an “artist statement” that explains their choices. Or they can film each other explaining the self-portraits and exchange the video clips along with scans of the self-portraits.

However you customize it, the activity is a great way for students to introduce themselves to international peers in a surprising, creative fashion.

This is just one example of the inspiration that awaits you on your own jaunts around the globe. Take pictures, record videos, grab brochures. Keep a notebook with you and jot down your thoughts as you visit well-known sites and lesser-known finds. Keep the idea of “story exchange” in the back of your mind and think about how what you’re seeing and experiencing could make its way into your classroom.

By the way, I was at the Reina Sofia in the evening because many museums in Spain boast free admission from 6-8 pm every night. After buying a ticket and making an overview of the exhibits during the daytime hours, we went back three more times–for free!–in the evenings to visit or revisit smaller areas or particular works–like Picasso’s Guernica.

Yes, I love museums.

No, I don’t think four visits to the same museum in a week and a half is excessive.  🙂


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