Before the Thanksgiving Break, English teacher Sarah-Elaine Jarrett took her Advanced Placement English Literature class on a daylong field trip to the Huntington Museum of Art.
This field trip centered on a particular subject, which Jarrett’s AP Literature students had recently been focusing on in their studies: the exploitation of the African Congo.
“The students read two texts before the trip,” said Jarrett. “They read ‘The Poisonwood Bible’ by Barbara Kingsolver and ‘Heart of Darkness’ by Joseph Conrad, both of which look at times when resources where exploited in the Congo. The texts connected to several pieces of art in the museum.”
Jarrett had certain goals and expectations for this field trip.
“One purpose of this field trip was to get students to think outside of the box,” said Jarrett. “I wanted them to think about the social and ethical implications of texts and artwork, and I wanted them to make connections between the artwork and the texts we have been reading in class. Cross-curricular work makes subjects seem more relevant and allows the class to connect the texts to the world around them.”
Students were able to get involved with the museum’s art in several ways.
“We wrote about and analyzed the art,” said senior Forest Rowley. “We also listened to the instructors and tried to connect the pieces.”
Senior Shannon Patrick had information to add about the experience.
“We were able to give our input on several pieces by Jim Dine,” said Patrick. “We also wrote poems or some other kind of narratives, about those pieces or others in the museum. Then, we made books that had themes that went with ‘Heart of Darkness’, ‘The Poisonwood Bible’ or both together.”
Another event that several students that went on the trip found memorable was the African music and dance show, coordinated by Marshall University professor Steven Hall. Hall was the primary musician at the event and played an African xylophone, several drums and an instrument from Thailand that has so many variations in the spelling of its name that it is sometimes simply called the Mouth Organ.
According to Jarrett, the event would not have been possible without the help of the museum’s staff.
“The Education Liaison of the museum, Cindy Dearborn, and I discussed the texts, and several of the museum’s staff members read the two texts,” said Jarrett. “I started talking to her, and planning with her, last spring. We had to coordinate and figure out the approximate windows of time.”
The combined effort of Jarrett and the Huntington Museum of Art’s staff provided the AP Literature students with an opportunity to broaden their horizons and bring new life to their texts.
The handcrafted books that the students made are currently on display outside of Jarrett’s room, F-103.