What began as a vision for a Clarke Central High School social studies teacher became reality Nov. 10 and 11 as hundreds of Clarke County 10th-graders visited UGA to explore the arts.
The students, from Clarke Central one day and Cedar Shoals High School the next, came to campus as part of Experience UGA, a partnership between the university and the Clarke County School District. The program is designed to introduce students in grades pre-K-12 to the myriad academic opportunities at UGA to foster interest in higher education. The 10th-grade trips were scheduled to coincide with Spotlight on the Arts, an annual event designed to draw attention to UGA’s visual literary and performing arts programs.
Clarke Central social studies teacher Ashley Goodrich, a UGA alumna who is getting her doctorate in educational theory and practice, came up with the idea for an arts-based field trip after several years of taking her students to the Georgia Museum of Art to study history through connections in art.
While on campus the 10th-graders visited the theatre and film studies department, the Hugh Hodgson School of Music, the museum, the Lamar Dodd School of Art, the dance department and the College of Education.
Students filled the seats in Ramsey Hall to hear the Red Priest, a world-renowned baroque quartet, play a collection of classical music.
In the theatre and film studies department, assistant professor Emily Sahakian’s service-learning students introduced the high school students to theater as a socially engaged art form, not just for entertainment. They played games that helped students reflect on issues such as racism and bullying, building community and problem solving.
“Games are a wonderful way in theater to engage with a community and to create a dialogue with the audience,” said Wyatt Geist, a master’s degree candidate in performance. “It’s also a great way to display ideas and emotions.”
Experience UGA is led by the Office of Service-Learning, a unit that reports jointly to the UGA Vice President for Public Service and Outreach and the Vice President for Instruction. Launched last year, the partnership aims to bring every Clarke County student to campus for an annual field trip and opportunity to experience learning on a college campus, explore college options and interact with UGA students. More than 3,000 Clarke County students came to UGA as part of the program last year. UGA will host about 10,000 students this year and expects to bring all 13,000 pre-K-12 students to campus next year and in the following years. Twelve schools and colleges, as well as eight other university units, will host trips for Experience UGA this year.
During the November field trips, students were introduced to dance as a way to be part of a community. Under the direction of associate professor Rebecca Enghauser, they learned about studio work and careers in dance. From their chairs they practiced movements and worked with partners, which taught them about listening skills and leadership.
At the art school, the students learned about light graffiti—art created by moving light and a camera’s long exposure—and 3-D printing. Jeremy Blair, an assistant professor of art education, helped them make short movies using green screen technology, props and costumes. They toured the building and saw a photography darkroom, a drawing and painting studio and a critique space.
At the museum, students discussed ways of responding to artwork through tours of the permanent collection and temporary exhibits led by students in education curator Carissa DiCindio’s service-learning course “Engaging Art Museum Audiences as Student Docents.” Current exhibitions on Italian fashion designer Emilio Pucci and the Elephant Six Collective provided an opportunity for students to also make sketches inspired by fashion and album covers on display.
For many, the Experience UGA arts field trip was a way to better understand art and its relationship to their lives, teachers said.
“A lot of our students have never had exposure to the arts before,” said Mary Claire Nixon, a dance teacher at Cedar Shoals High School. “Giving them this opportunity is the most important thing; we hope to create lifelong lovers of art and learning.”