One reason I became an avid museumgoer as an adult and developed an appreciation for the arts was because I was regularly taken to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and other museums when I was a child. Many kids aren’t that fortunate and the only opportunity they have to visit a museum is if their school arranges a field trip. Moreover, many of these same students have little or no exposure to art within their classrooms.
To help reach a largely unserved audience and fill this educational gap, LACMA offers free admission and free Docent Council tours to student groups of varying ages and grade levels. The museum also provides students who visit the museum on a school tour a NexGen membership, which entitles them to visit the museum with an adult guest at no cost until their 18th birthday.
Each year, the museum serves approximately 40,000 students, grades 1-12, through its student tour program. Tours are designed for specific grade level ranges and are aligned with state content standards for history / social science and language arts. They are conducted by volunteer docents who receive training in art history (with an emphasis on LACMA’s collection) and in working with students.
Teachers can choose from a list of ten regularly scheduled tours of the permanent collection, such as Art Tells a Tale (for grades 1-5), Art and Creative Writing (for grades 5-12) and Art of Many Cultures (for grades 6-12). Tours are also offered for some special exhibitions, such as David Smith: Cubes and Anarchy, which runs from April 5, 2011 through June 17, 2011.
According to Julie Feibelmann, LACMA’s Docent Council Coordinator, “the museum provides an exclusive experience for grades 1-12, allowing them to tour the museum while we are closed to the general public. The fact that we break the students into smaller groups [generally not exceeding 10 students per docent] provides a unique and more intimate learning environment, which is often a sharp contrast to the crowded classroom experience that many students have.”
While admission and tours are free of charge to school groups that want to participate in docent-guided tours, the cost of providing transportation to and from the museum is prohibitive for many. LACMA tries to address this need by providing a limited number of buses to LAUSD title 1 schools on a one-bus-per-school, first come first served basis, upon written request. You can find more transportation related information on the School Tour FAQ.
If you’re a teacher who is looking for new ways to engage your students in the learning process and expose them to art, I highly recommend LACMA’s excellent tour program. If you’re a parent of one or more students in grades K-12 and your school doesn’t currently send kids on the LACMA tours, I suggest you pass this information along to your children’s teachers, PTA and/or administrators and encourage them to take advantage of this program.
For more information about the school tour program, please visit these sites: