Schwarzkoff Elementary School fifth-graders Rachel Rascol, 10, and Kelsey Lewandowski, 10, look at a Hopi katsina figure during a Dec. 18 school field trip to the Detroit Institute of Arts.

Schwarzkoff Elementary School fifth-graders Rachel Rascol, 10, and Kelsey Lewandowski, 10, look at a Hopi katsina figure during a Dec. 18 school field trip to the Detroit Institute of Arts.

Photo by Sean Work


UCS students see indigenous art on DIA field trips

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published December 19, 2018

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STERLING HEIGHTS — For Morgan Elementary School art teacher Karen Borbolla, a recent school field trip to the Detroit Institute of Arts was a chance for students to witness creativity through the ages.

“It brought history to life for them,” she said.

Borbolla’s field trip was part of a larger partnership between Utica Community Schools and the DIA that is currently in its fourth year, according to UCS Superintendent Christine Johns. She and around 1,900 fifth-graders across 25 elementary schools go on the DIA field trips.

Johns said the students do this in conjunction with a teaching unit on Native American culture and history. The field trips are mostly clustered around December and January, when students are studying that unit, she explained.

“They have the opportunity to have the experience that reinforces the learning in the classroom,” she said. “It brings, basically, connections between art, culture and history together for our students. They have a greater understanding and appreciation of the value of arts in society.”

Borbolla, who is also the UCS district’s systemwide chair for K-12 art, said her class went to the DIA just prior to Thanksgiving.  

“We focused on the Native American culture, so the DIA educators and docents shared information and experiences with us,” she said. “And then we had the opportunity to tour other parts of the museum as well.”

Borbolla said her students focused on tribes and art from the Pacific Northwest coast. The students learned something called VTS, or visual thinking strategies, to interpret the art and its meaning. Once back at school, they made their own artwork designs inspired by what they saw at the DIA, she said.

Robert Monroe, the UCS assistant superintendent for teaching and learning, praised the teachers and said the DIA experience cannot be replicated in a textbook.

He said the students see a variety of artifacts and paintings.

“The DIA’s collection is known for quality, range and depth of learning,” he said.

Johns said the field trips are possible through a 2012 millage approved in Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties that allows those counties’ residents free general admission to the museum.

School officials said the DIA also offers free bus transportation, and the museum arranged free field trips for 14,356 Macomb County students in 2017.

“We hope it sparks an interest with their families (so) they’ll continue to experience the DIA and everything it has to offer in the areas of art and culture,” Johns said.

School officials said that through the partnership, the DIA also offers tours, lesson plans and teaching materials that schools may use.

“Field trips spark imagination, encourage discovery, and allow students to step outside their environment to experience a diversity of cultures and perspectives,” DIA Director Salvador Salort-Pons said in a statement.

Find out more about Utica Community Schools by visiting www.uticak12.org or by calling (586) 797-1000.

For the Detroit Institute of Arts, visit www.dia.org.

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