When you work in a school, you can be certain that several times a year you will have to go on a school trip.In my year group we tend to alternate between going to Bristol Zoo with Windsor Castle and Sandbanks. Great days out but a case of same old same old when you've done it year after year. So I got a little excited when I was asked to make up numbers on a trip to London with two classes worth of eight and nine year olds. Ooh how exciting, thought I, especially when I discovered that we would be going to The National Gallery. I will be the first to admit that I am no expert when it comes to art, but I do enjoy a mooch around an art gallery now and again, and can go as far as saying that I recognise the work of a handful of the Old Masters.
Fortunately the coach journey to London went quickly enough without any one needing the sick bucket or a wee, nor did I have to endure listening to Ten Green Bottles being sang over and over again a zillion times. By junction 14 of the M4, the darlings started the "Are we nearly there" routine. You know how irritating this can be when you are in a family car with just the one or two munchkins asking. Now imagine a bus load of them !!!!! The boredom of a long journey was briefly eleveated when, whilst in a a bit of a traffic jam, our coach crawled along at a snails pace side by side with a van with the images of four naked male bottoms having a wee in some natty neon coloured urinals emblazened on the side. Sixty kids and eight adults make a lot of noise in a couch when laughing hysterically. The poor driver. Hope he had some paracetemol with him!
After a few hairy moments when we left the bus to try and cross the busy London roads, we finally arrived at The National Gallery, along with countless other schools, including one with the same colour uniform as ours, except the children were about 3 years old. Fine art appreciation starts young in London these days! After a much needed loo stop we met up with a rather arty looking lady who was friendly but slightly bossy, who then gathered us around an enormous sixteenth century painting and talked about it. She had those children hooked from the start. Getting them to pose, mirroring the characters in the painting, and encouraging them to think about the symbolism, colour, light and texture in the picture. She really was very good .
Unlike me! After a rushed lunch it was our turn to take a group and explore the gallery. We had half an hour to look at two thousand plus works of art. A doddle! I put on my best art historian voice and gave a mini lecture about what the artist was trying to portray in his painting.. Of course I knew diddly squat about rennaisance art but who were they to know that I was telling them a whole load of baloney. I thought that I'd pulled it off very well thank you very much!
In all honesty I don't think that they got a great deal out of looking at a whole bunch of old paintings. There was nothing hands on for them to twiddle with or explore using their other senses. We had so little time there, but I think that any longer and they would have been climbing the walls and running amok!
Back home I asked one little boy what had been the highlight of the trip His reply was "seeing MacDonalds".... Yep, maybe we should stick to zoos castles and the seaside !