Students are typically scolded for throwing paper airplanes in class.
But for a group of Galloway school students, paper airplanes were part of the lesson plan.
Galloway math teacher Stephen Cooper showed the students, ranging from grades 7 through 12, methods for folding different types of paper planes. Designs ranged from basic, dart-shaped planes to a circular plane to one that whirled like a helicopter.
They discussed lift and resistance, and the different forces that made the planes fly. Then, they tested them by throwing them from the balcony of the High Museum of Art’s auditorium.
The unusual curriculum was part of a program called HIGH Energy, during which The Galloway School transported its entire student body to the High Museum of Art for a full day of learning outside the classroom.
“The school building is empty, which I think is powerful,” Galloway Head of School Suzanna Jemsby said. “It says to us, learning can happen anywhere.”
Jemsby said the experience was conceived to be more than just a field trip.
Teachers took inspiration from the art displayed at the museum, but the lessons weren’t all about art, Jemsby said. The teachers took a multi-disciplinary approach by including activities relating to math, science, literature and music.
In addition to touring the galleries, students also took over the grounds of the High, using the grass and ramps and even building a temporary dark room for pin-hole cameras. “Their main purpose is not to stand there and look at art. It’s to make the most of the surroundings,” Jemsby said.
Virginia Shearer, the High Museum’s director of education, said more than 65,000 students visit the museum each year, but this is the first time a school has come for the entire day.
“For us, it’s just an incredible look at a wonderful group of teachers coming into the High and thinking, ‘what could we do here?’” Shearer said. “It’s just really taking it to the next level.”
Shearer said she’s open to more schools working with the museum in a similar way. “It’s a lot of confidence teachers have to have to come outside the classroom,” Shearer said. “I don’t doubt that Atlanta’s teachers, if they put their minds to it, could do it. We’ve got great teachers in this city.”
Galloway teacher Mat Fallon walked his students through the Go West! exhibit, a collection featuring art of the American West from 1830 through 1930, including paintings, sculptures of Native American objects and frontier firearms.
Outside the museum, using Nerf guns and toy bows and arrows, the students aimed their “weapons” at pictures of buffalo hanging from trees. Riding skateboards while shooting, they simulated the difficulty of hunting on the frontier while riding a horse.
It was also an opportunity for the science teacher to incorporate a physics lesson about where a dart shot while moving should land.
Jemsby said one of the ideas behind the program was to blend different subjects into hands-on activities for the students. “Art relates to everything, but we forget to make those connections sometimes,” Jemsby said.