Dan Bowen, Brian Kisida, and I have published a few articles describing the results of an experiment in which we randomly assigned school groups to receive a field trip to the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art or not.  Students assigned by lottery to get a field trip to an art museum showed several beneficial effects when measured several weeks after their visit, including higher levels of tolerance and historical empathy, stronger critical thinking about art, greater knowledge about art, and increased interest in frequenting art museums in the future –a result which was confirmed by tracking whether students actually used coupons to visit the museum several months later.

But all of these results were based on students we examined in grades 3-12, not younger students from whom we also collected data.  For students in kindergarten through 2nd grade we designed a separate set of measures collected by a survey that we read to them and in which they circled pictures to indicate their answers.  We were so busy publishing the larger set of results based on older students that we had not gotten around to publishing what we found for younger children. Until now…

In a new piece led by Brian Kisida, who is an assistant professor at the University of Missouri, and co-authored by Dan Bowen, who is an assistant professor at Texas A&M University, and me, and published in the journal, Early Childhood Research Quarterly, we describe the effects of a field trip to Crystal Bridges on younger students in grades K-2.  We collected fewer outcome measures for these younger students, but the results were consistent with what we had found for older students.  In particular, we found that going on a field trip to an art museum significantly increased young students’ interest in art museums.  Students who by lottery went on a field trip were significantly more likely to report that art museums are fun and that they would like to go there in the future with their family.  They were also significantly less likely to describe looking at art as “boring,” although that results seems to have been largely driven by a positive effect on girls.

In addition to this positive effect on student interest in art museums, going on a field trip also conveyed important academic content.  In particular, we found that students randomly assigned to visit the museum were significantly more likely to know the difference between a portrait and a landscape and significantly more likely to be able to recognize who George Washington is (student tours included viewing a portrait of George Washington).  Even very young students learn things on field trips to an art museum and those museum visits increase their interest in frequenting art museums in the future.

Be sure to check out this article and the other articles forthcoming in Early Childhood Research Quarterly, which contain other interesting results on the effects of art on young children.

And in case anyone would like a list of the studies our team has published so far on the effects of these arts-focused field trips, here they are with hyperlinks.

Peer-Reviewed Publications

Kisida, B., Bowen, D. H., & Greene, J. P. (2016). Measuring critical thinking: Results from an art museum field trip experimentJournal of Research on Educational Effectiveness, 9(1), 171-182.

Greene, J. P., Hitt, C., Kraybill, A., & Bogulski, C. A. (2015). Learning from live theaterEducation Next15(1), 54-61.

Kisida, B., Greene, J. P., & Bowen, D. H. (2014). Creating cultural consumers: The dynamics of cultural capital acquisitionSociology of Education87(4), 281-295.

Greene, J. P., Kisida, B., & Bowen, D. H. (2014). The educational value of field tripsEducation Next14(1), 78-86.

Bowen, D. H., Greene, J. P., & Kisida, B. (2014). Learning to think critically: A visual art experimentEducational Researcher43(1), 37-44.

Non-Peer-Reviewed Publications

Greene, J. P., Kisida, B., Bogulski, C. A., Kraybill, A., Hitt, C., & Bowen, D. H. (2014). Arts education matters: We know, we measured itEducationWeek34(13), 24.

Greene, J. P., Kisida, B., & Bowen, D. H. (2014). Why field trips matter: New study shows visiting an art museum improves critical thinking skills and more. Museum93(1), 32-41.

Kisida, B., Greene, J. P., & Bowen, D. H. (2013, November 23). Art makesyou smartThe New York Times, SR12.

Working Paper

The Play’s the Thing: Experimentally Examining the Social and Cognitive Effects of School Field Trips to Live Theater Performances,” with Holmes Erickson, Heidi and Watson, Angela and Beck, Molly, (August 31, 2017). EDRE Working Paper No. 2017-13. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3030928