September 8, 2020

Alt+Shift: A virtual school program

This summer, the Scottsdale Arts Learning & Innovation staff has been experimenting with ways to engage our community virtually. We have been excited to maintain our connection with others, inspire creative thinking, and spark the imagination through online platforms. This includes envisioning a relevant and authentic program for our school audiences who are currently navigating the potentials of virtual and hybrid learning, as well as adapting to modified classroom spaces. 

Scottsdale Arts Learning & Innovation immediately shifted all programs online after schools closed last March. This is our Visions wrap-up with nearly 40 high school students in May 2020. Screen capture: Scottsdale Arts.

In developing a virtual field trip, my goals included offering a way for students to “travel” beyond familiar spaces to a visually-enriching learning environment—in this case, Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (SMoCA). The program aspires to connect to visual arts and social science curriculum, as well as foster social emotional learning skills that help young people to respond to unexpected life events, such as those we have all experienced this year. And let’s not forget the magic ingredients: a dash of humor and a dose of FUN! 

Students attending a field trip at SMoCA. Photo: Betty Hum Photography.

The title of the program, Alt+Shift, directly acknowledges the digital landscape we have all found ourselves exploring this year as a primary mode of communication and expression. It refers to a computer’s command keys: the alt key acting as a way to modify the function of other keys and the shift key operating to change case. Shifting thought patterns and considering alternating perspectives are both features of resilience. Imagining difference, anticipating change, and building empathy for others are all characteristics of a resilient individual who can respond critically and creatively to the unexpected. Observing and responding to art from multiple viewpoints helps us to practice and refine these characteristics.  

Alt+Shift will encourage students to see how each of us sees the world differently with the intent to build empathy and confidence. Photo: Betty Hum Photography.

Whether in person or virtual, field trips where students analyze and interpret meaning in artistic work open doors for imaginative and critical thinking, identifying one’s emotions, and valuing multiple perspectives. Studies have demonstrated that arts-learning experiences can increase our compassion for others and improve other skills, such as written communication. Consider the artwork below from SMoCA’s permanent collection. Along with discussing the formal and figurative qualities of the art, including color, line and shape, students can also develop narrative interpretations of what they may discover beyond the door, or reflect upon how they may be transformed by crossing this threshold. As a symbol of discovery and transformation, this image represents the possibilities of a field trip in the arts.     

Robert Motherwell (United States, 1915–1991)
The Blue Door
Acrylic and charcoal on canvas
84 IN. X 42 IN.

Alt+Shift this fall will take inspiration from SMoCA’s upcoming exhibitions BEYOND: Works by Nellie King Solomon and Barbara Staufaccher Solomon and Urban Mapping that encourage fresh perspectives of space and place, movement and motion—which in one example is uniquely materialized through the form of ping-pong. The virtual field trip will include close observation of artworks, interactive discussion, and a lesson plan for teachers along with drawing, writing, and reflecting activities for students to complete in the classroom or at home. 

Just because you can’t visit SMoCA with your class doesn’t mean you can’t engage with the art through virtual field trips. Photo: Scottsdale Arts.

Scottsdale Arts Learning & Innovation welcomes bookings for the Alt+Shift virtual field trip to SMoCA from school and homeschool groups of grades 5–12, up to a maximum of 30 people per session. We can provide point-to-point and multi-point programming, reaching single classrooms or multiple households. Flexible scheduling is available for the fall from October – December on select Tuesdays between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. and Wednesdays at 10:00 a.m.

Please contact [email protected] to discuss a great option for your school group. We also welcome ideas or requests from teachers who have a specific theme, curriculum connection, or skill set that they would like to explore at SMoCA.

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