Field trips

Last week I went to Robert Goddard Space Flight Center. It was really cool! There was lots of information about space missions, and outer space. I recommend anyone who likes space to go and see all of the cool information, and the awesome science on a sphere, which is looking at pictures and video on a sphere screen.


I like the Impressionists at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC.  And every once in a while, I like to take a look at Thomas Cole’s “The Voyage of Life.” However they are in opposite sections of the building, and a person can get tired taking in all of the art in between.

When we started going on lots of field trips as new homeschoolers in 2003, we figured out a way to view some art with the kids and roll in some other activities, too.

I shouldn’t claim it was only for the kids.  I never was one for going through every single room of a museum. The only thing I can remember from school museum field trips is my bag lunch that had a soda can wrapped in aluminum foil. So the plan we came up with works very well for me.

Here’s what the kids and I do for fun at the National Gallery of Art:

Step 1.  Take a handful of change because there are a couple of fountains in the building. Enjoy the seasonal flowers they have placed around the fountains and make a whole lot of wishes.

Step 2. Pick one section of art to visit and go enjoy it.

Step 3. Promise yourselves gelato as a reward after you’ve viewed that section.  You’ll be tired from standing and walking, so you’ll deserve it.  The gelato counter is downstairs outside the cafeteria, between the west and east buildings (near the gift shop).  Yes, it’s expensive, but it’s GELATO!

Step 4. Enjoy the neat looking waterfall that you can see through the glass wall near the cafeteria.

NGA waterfall

Step 5.  Ride the moving sidewalk. As a parent, you might be tempted to sit on the benches at one end and let your kids ride it alone and walk back a few times. I say go for it.  Our kids recommend that any unaccompanied minors keep a straight, serious face for this part. Something that says, “I’m erudite and I belong here.” Otherwise the guards waiting at the other end lecture them about fooling on the moving sidewalk. Frosty, our eldest, further recommends walking over to the nearest painting and staring at it meaningfully for a few seconds to throw the guards off even more.

NGA moving sidewalk

Step 6. This step can be done throughout your entire museum visit. It’s called “Count the Exposed Body Parts.” Ahem. Yes, those body parts. Everyone’s already looking at them secretly anyway, so you might as well count them. I’ll leave the counting method up to you. I can only advise ahead of time that you keep score with discretion. It’s embarrassing when your child screams out, “That’s 17 butt cheeks!” (In our defense, this game only started after the girls reached the mature ages of 11 and 8.)

And there you have it.  Have fun so that everyone wants to go back.

P.S. Thomas Cole painted two versions of “The Voyage of Life.” The other is in the Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute in Utica, NY.  My mother and I think it’s the better version. And it’s right up the road from the Saranac Brewery that has a tour and samples.