Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Making the Most out of Field Trips with The New Victory School Tool

With so much emphasis on student testing and so little money and time for arts in schools, it’s up to organizations like The New Victory Theater to not only provide quality arts programming for our education partners, but also to help teachers make the field trip experience more than just a free day away from the classroom.

Extra School Tools live on this bookshelf in
the Education Department.
Each season, our partner schools have a myriad of resources available to them to extend the theater-going experience for students and to support the integration of the arts into the curriculum. One such tool is our online New Victory School Tool resource guides which I develop and write. These digital guides provide background information and activities that can be used to deepen students’ understanding of specific art forms. At the same time, they also help teachers tie the field trip to other learning areas like English Language Arts, math, social studies and even gym class!

By way of example, the School Tool for our current show, The Complete World of Sports (abridged) includes activities that explore the art of comedy and improvisation as well as the larger theme of parody in pop culture. The suggested improvisation activities, like "Yes and…" and "Freeze Tag" are reminiscent of the sketches from the television show Who’s Line is it Anyway and encourage students to think quickly on their feet. Whether used in a traditional drama classroom or by an English teacher looking to get kids’ creative juices going, these improv activities are a fun way to create an environment of camaraderie while challenging students to create a narrative in the moment. Teachers can then choose to expand upon the improvised scenes to focus on character analysis or creative writing, among other options.

Archives in this drawer are
from the 2000-2001 season.
The other activities in this School Tool help teachers guide students in an analysis of parody in pop culture and create parodies of sports advertisements. Parody and satire are two elements of literature that students explore in their English Language Arts class, so what better way to tie the production to the curriculum? And, what would a School Tool for The Complete World of Sports (abridged) be without an activity in which students make up a new ridiculous sport while parodying the sometimes over-the-top aspects of popular sports?!

In the high-stakes, test-driven education environment, it is important for teachers to be able to tie their field trips to the curriculum. School Tool resource guides are one way that we - the Education department - help educators make the most out of their trip to the New Vic and help kids maximize their learning in the arts.
What sport did the RSC make up? Photo: Meghan Moore
Mara Richards is the Education Manager for Curriculum and Resources at The New Victory Theater. Mara oversees educator resources and creates the School Tool resource guides. She holds a BFA in Drama (NYU), an MA in Performance Studies (NYU), and an MS in Educational Theatre (CCNY) and is a certified Theatre teacher with Initial Certification in Theatre for grades Pre K-12. Before returning to grad school in 2008 for Educational Theatre, Mara worked in arts fundraising for 8 years. Follow Mara on Twitter @maranyc123.


  1. Thanks for the blog, Mara. As someone who saddens at the thought of fewer field trips in schools these days, as opposed to more, I appreciate everything we can do to illuminate the inherent value in taking learning out of traditional context and giving students IRL face-time in new relationships.

    One thing that teachers can do is to assign a learning goal to the trip in their lesson plans. Rather than just relying upon the content of the field trip to connect with the curriculum, teachers can emphasize a cognitive objective as the fundamental activity of the trip. Lesson plans, proposals to principals, bulletin boards, websites, and daily announcements are places to "advertise" the active learning that will happen before/during/after the sojourn.

    These are just a few suggestions. Anyone have any other strategies they've used?

    Thanks again to the New Vic for providing invaluable resources to enable learning experiences for students and teachers alike!

  2. Thanks for the comment, Rachel! I agree that field trips are not only about the content contained in them. When a trip to an informal learning environment is considered in its entirety, there are numerous opportunities for learning along the way (before/during/after the trip). By articulating a learning goal (i.e. a cognitive objective) to go along with the content objectives, teachers better prepare students for the many benefits of the trip and can advocate more effectively for the importance of these excursions. Thanks for posting! I look forward to hearing what other strategies educators use to make the most out of the fieldtrip experience. - Mara