Whenever I travel, I am always on the lookout for souvenirs for my classroom. I love pulling out the “real deal” when teaching culture lessons. Students are immediately engaged if they can see and touch a real art object.
Some favorite pieces from my collection include a weaving from Guatemala,
a carved mask from Mexico,
and a set of printing blocks from Japan.
1. Will the kids be able to touch and handle it?
If the answer is no, I generally don’t make the purchase. Being able to hold something is so much better than just looking, especially if you’re eight years old. The exception is if I can use something for a demonstration, like the ink stone I brought back from Japan. Even though I don’t let the kids touch it, they are engaged while watching me use it.
2. Can I easily tie it to an art lesson?
Sure, you can buy some pretty sweet chopsticks in Japan, but other than building a chopstick tower, you would be hard pressed to create an entire lesson around them. Better objects are those that are tied more directly to the beliefs or art practices of a particular group of people such as masks, textiles, or pottery.
3. Will it fit in my classroom?
On the surface, this might seem like a silly question. If it fits in a suitcase, of course it will fit in a classroom! That said, I really believe in keeping an organized space for my kids, so if it can’t be put away somewhere, it’s a no go!
I’ll be the first to admit that I have been lucky with all the travel opportunities that have come my way. Between family trips and my husband’s job, my travel experience is much more extensive than I ever dreamed it would be. If international travel isn’t in your future, there are other great ways to acquire genuine artifacts for your classroom. Thrift stores, antique shops and garage sales are all great places to search for deals. If you’re not a fan of spending your own money on your classroom, ask if you can be reimbursed for these objects out of your yearly budget!
Insider tip: Another idea is to “bring back” a cool experience. Here I am with a calligraphy teacher in Kyoto! Search the web for places that might give lessons to visitors.
Are there any travel plans in your future? What trip has inspired you the most?
How do you use art objects in your classroom?