On a crisp October morning, 29 kindergarteners from the Carolina Community Academy in Roxboro, N.C., walked through the doors of the Ackland Art Museum and were transported to early Japan. A world of kimonos, hair ornaments, and wonder awaited them.
The visit to the Ackland marked the Academy’s first field trip to the UNC-Chapel Hill campus and provided students the chance to look closely, to see far, and to engage – with art and with a new place – in new ways.
As students made their way through permanent and rotating galleries, Ackland staff and volunteers prompted them with questions and led activities that included selecting favorite artworks and providing students with the opportunity to create artwork of their own.
“There’s nothing like slowing down and looking at a work of art for 20 minutes, and these Carolina Community Academy students did that three different times,” said Jenny Marvel, Ackland Head of School and Community Programs. “They spent an hour looking at works of art really closely and paying attention to the details and listening to each other and being open to new ideas.”
The Carolina Community Academy – a partnership between the University and Person County Schools – is an innovative K-2 school at North Elementary School in Roxboro, N.C. The goal for the Academy is to leverage the full strength of Carolina to help serve the students, families, and community in Person County. The UNC School of Education has assembled a cross-campus coalition of schools and units to do this work. The students’ trip to the Ackland is one of the first realizations of this coalition.
In preparation for the visit, museum staff traveled to Roxboro to meet with the students ahead of time. They shared a presentation with some of the art they would see, specifically in the Japanese art exhibit. Students also tried on kimonos for a more immersive experience.
“[Our students] learned that there’s no right or wrong answer about what you love about art, and they learned that we can use art to express our emotions, the things we love and care about,” said Renee Carmon, Carolina Community Academy principal, noting the full Ackland experience’s impact on student social and emotional development.
Through these campus partnerships, students will have new opportunities to grow and learn, and educators in Person County and Carolina faculty and staff can exchange and grow new ideas.
“We have an opportunity to provide co- and extra-curricular experiences that round out a captivating elementary experience,” said Amy Richardson, director of Carolina Community Academy. “There is joy in learning, and while our trips to campus bolster the learning happening in Roxboro, we’re also excited to help our Carolina Community Academy staff and students think about the way these same experiences can be mirrored by and with our great collaborators in Person County.”
After the visit to the Ackland, students took a campus tour, made possible by the UNC Visitors Center, visiting the Old Well, Polk Place, and the Morehead Planetarium and Science Center.
Future field trips to campus are already scheduled with more in planning. Carolina Community Academy students will attend a women’s basketball game in November and the Morehead Planetarium in the spring.
“Another vision for our field trips to campus is to show our students what college life means,” Richardson said. “Some students are more drawn to the academics, others are drawn to the similarities or differences in the places where they grow up, while still others are drawn to the full scope of accessibility a university offers. Our trips to campus aim to show our youngest Tar Heels – and their families – what it looks and feels like to be a student here.”