Every spring, York Prep’s sixth graders hike through Central Park to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art to enjoy artifacts from the many cultures they study in History teacher Eric Tull’s World Geography class and their World Language classes. 2015 is no exception. On Tuesday, April 28 the weather was gloriously [and finally] cooperative as York’s youngest strode across the park, enjoying the sight of the blooming magnolias and the sounds of an a capella singing quartet and the Bethesda Fountain saxophonist. They were accompanied by Mr. Tull, along with Mandarin teacher Wendy Jin and Spanish teacher Danica Radeka. Once at the Met, the students were divided into three groups of seven, and each investigated three exhibits [in rotating fashion, to maximize the amount of “elbow room”]: the paintings of French Impressionists, the statuary of a classical Spanish patio, and the porcelain and glassware of the Chinese dynasties.
Students were armed with a packet of “trip sheets” and pencils with which they were challenged to compare the artistic styles of Monet, Gaugin, and Degas, design and draw their own fantasy patio garden, and identify Chinese pottery by region. The purpose of the sheets is to help students focus their observation, sharpen their attention to significant detail, and enhance their creative responses. For example, one student designed her patio to be “very peaceful and private, with a lot of colorful flowers and sculptures”, another’s was colored “green and blue to represent nature and the water”, and still another planned “a seating area to rent out for weddings and performances”.
For their teachers, it is gratifying to see the enthusiasm and ease with which these eleven-year-olds interact with artifacts of diverse cultures. One might even say that for York’s sixth graders, exploring the world’s artistic treasures is just a walk in the park.