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5 Fun Ways for Art Teachers to Bust Out of the 4 Walls of Their Classroom

5 Fun Ways for Art Teachers to Bust Out of the 4 Walls of Their Classroom

Written by:
Rachel Chapman
Nov 14, 2022

The classroom is a space for exploration and learning. It’s where the majority of our art education occurs, but with the arts frequently being underfunded and resources being restricted, the confines of a classroom can have its limitations. Art exists and functions far beyond the classroom, making experiential learning critical to gaining a well-rounded arts education.  

The good news is that we live in an incredible city full of amazing art that anyone can experience! There is an endless variety of fun, accessible resources available for art teachers to bring to their students that allows them to experience the larger world of art. Here are five ways for art teachers to take their class outside the classroom.

Field Trips

Field trips are a classic way to incorporate more experiential education into your curriculum, and fortunately, Chicago is a city full of potential sites to visit! Museums like the Design Museum of Chicago, the Cultural Center, and the National Museum of Mexican Art always offer free admission. The Museum of Contemporary Art is free for visitors under 18 and Illinois teachers, and the Art institute is free for children under 14 as well as Illinois teachers and Chicago teens under 18. With ever-changing artists and exhibits, museums are always a great option for learning about various styles, mediums, and themes firsthand.

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Museums aren’t the only way to experience art up close. The public art throughout the city provides students with a fantastic opportunity to see and feel the art that surrounds them, and unlike some museums, public art is always free and accessible to everyone. Check out some of the many sculptures like Agora, The Gentlemen, or Fountain of Time. You can also show your students some of Chicago’s best street art and murals. Viewing public art is a chance to see the impact art has on shaping the identity of a city and the ways in which that art reflects the identities of the people who live there. Art isn’t merely decorative; it’s representative.

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Take-Home Projects

You don’t necessarily need to go on an adventure to make unique art outside of the classroom. In fact, some of the best ideas can be cultivated from the comforts of home! There are a host of ways for students to use their surroundings to create art. 

Encourage students to go out into nature for their next art project. Use outdoor materials like twigs, stones, or berries to make paint or unique textures. Y-shaped branches can be used to make looms. Students can even use the sounds they hear as inspiration to compose an image. If your surroundings aren’t exactly natural, no problem! Urban landscapes can be a great source of creativity. Students can make urban sketches, or take photographs and make collages.

Art can happen anywhere, and the home is no exception. Houses are teeming with found objects waiting to be used for sculptures or still lifes. Students can put together peculiar arrangements to photograph or even try to create backstories for the items they find. 

Family Artmaking

If students are making art at home, why not get the whole family involved? Constantly working alone can lead to some serious artists’ block. Making art with family is a great way for students to get inspiration outside of the classroom while also spending time with loved ones.

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Students can make art specifically focused on the theme of family using materials like new and old photos, letters, mementos, and stories. This can be a great chance to connect with and learn about previous generations, as well as learning about themselves.

Family art projects can also be focused on the process of creating art together regardless of the final product’s theme. Have students and their families participate in activities like “pass the drawing,” creating a painting or sculpture together, or making cards to exchange with one another. You can even do projects where family members each contribute an idea for the student to combine into a single art piece.

 

Participate in Art Contests

Art contests are a fun opportunity for young artists to get some exposure, show off their talents, and potentially win some prizes along the way! It helps shake up the routine and encourages students to step outside of their comfort zone. There are tons of different contests to choose from for all different ages, art mediums, and themes.

The Congressional Art Competition for High Schoolers gives students the chance at having their art displayed at the Capitol for a year! There’s also no fee to enter. Some contests, like the Doodle for Google Art Contest, offer some incredible prizes like a $30,000 scholarship and a $50,000 tech package for your school! You can also have students participate in contests that support good causes like the Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Contest or the SAAM Student Art Contest.

Have a Special Activity Day

Art teachers don’t need to leave the school to bust out of the classroom. Consider doing a special activity that takes students outside the room to make art. You can do outdoor activities like tie-dying or expressive splatter painting on large paper. You can also have students create messages and art to be hidden and found by others either outdoors or throughout the school.

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Students at LaSalle Elementary Language Academy, in Chicago, make prints with teacher Chris Thomas.Mandatory photo credit: Abel Arciniega – Tequila Creative Studio

If space is available, another great option is to create a themed immersive space in a corner or hallway. This brings students together to work towards a common goal that they can all enjoy. Building an immersive space was one of the highlights of my senior year at Northside Prep and was a refreshing way to get out of the classroom and socialize with friends while creating something we were all extremely proud of in the end.

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IPMM’s Mural On Wheels is another great opportunity for art teachers to give their students a day outside the classroom to participate in a fun project that they get to keep a piece of afterwards! This Curbside Art Workshop is an event where students learn screen printing while also learning about local artists. In the end, they can take home their prints and some extra art goodies!


While classrooms are the birthplace of inspiration, art exists everywhere, and students deserve to experience it in all its forms. Fortunately, having an experiential education is far from impossible and can in fact be very accessible! 

16 free lesson planning resources

Written by:
Rachel Chapman
Nov 14, 2022

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