Our research suggests that students actually retain a great deal of factual information from their tours. —Jay P. Greene, Brian Kisida and Daniel H. Bowen

School field trips to an art museum distill measurable benefits on students — especially children from rural or low-income areas — according to a new study from a trio of University of Arkansas educators.

Data was collected exclusively at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Northwest Arkansas.

“Our research suggests that students actually retain a great deal of factual information from their tours,” Jay P. Greene, Brian Kisida and Daniel H. Bowen wrote in the policy journal Education Next. “Students who received a tour of the museum were able to recall details about the paintings they had seen at very high rates. For example, 88 percent of the students who saw the Eastman Johnson painting ‘At the Camp — Spinning Yarns and Whittling’ knew when surveyed weeks later that the painting depicts abolitionists making maple syrup to undermine the sugar industry, which relied on slave labor.”

The study was able to evenly sample schools regardless of socioeconomic factors because the museum’s endowment “reimburses schools for the cost of buses, provides free admission and lunch, and even pays for the cost of substitute teachers to cover for teachers who accompany students on the tour.”

Crystal Bridges Museum is “the first major art museum to be built in the United States in the last four decades, with more than 50,000 square feet of gallery space and an endowment in excess of $800 million,” according to the Education Next article.

Education Week’s Erik Robelen reported Monday, “At a time when what the researchers call ‘culturally enriching’ school field trips are on the decline, the experimental study took a deep dive into the effects for students who recently visited a prominent new art museum in Arkansas. It identifies multiple benefits, with especially strong effects for students from low-income families.”

“The students toured the collection before regular hours, in order to limit distractions,” Chuck Bartels wrote Monday for the Associated Press. “Museum guides didn't lecture the students but engaged them in discussions about different works of art. …

“Alice Walton, daughter of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. founder Sam Walton, who used her fortune to bankroll the museum, said (at a Monday press conference) the study should inspire school administrators to schedule more field trips to culturally significant destinations.”

Email: jaskar@desnews.com