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A passport to discovery.

Have you ever had an experience too good to be true; one that you could not wait to share with your friends? I had just such an experience last summer when I was a part of the "Passport to Discovery" tour offered by CRIZMAC Art and Cultural Education Materials, Inc., and led by founder Stevie Mack and assistant Kitty Williams.

I have always been interested in sharing artworks from many cultures with my students, and this only intensified when I found myself teaching in a school with a growing Hispanic population. I wanted to know more about their art and culture, and felt a need to experience it firsthand.

In the spring of 2004, at the NAEA conference in Denver, I signed up for CRIZMAC's "Passport to Discovery" tour to Mexico in July. As I reviewed the itinerary for this trip to Mexico City, Puebla, and Oaxaca, I became more and more excited. Eight days and nights filled with visiting museums, artists' homes, and artist demonstrations--an art teacher's dream come true!

When our trip began, each participant received a resource book developed by CRIZMAC. It prepared us for what we would see, and now that I am home, the information and lesson plans it contains enable me to share my experience with my students.

At first, I wondered if just eight days in Mexico would be enough for me to experience all the art and culture I wanted to sample. It was! We were in motion from sunup to sundown fulfilling each day's itinerary. Thank goodness each day began with breakfast provided, because sustenance was needed to propel us through our daily activities.

Stevie and Kitty provided lots of background information on each site and the people we would meet. Between the lectures and the wealth of information in our resource book, we were always well prepared to absorb as much as we could from each stop.

Each day was well planned and full of activities. The meals that were included were delicious, and allowed us to sample the "local flavor." Several evenings we were on our own, and that was made enjoyable by the camaraderie developed by all members of our group.

I saw and experienced too many wonderful things to mention them all, but some of the highlights included seeing Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera's homes; visiting Josefina Aguilar's home and studio and watching her create one of her clay figures; and walking around the ancient ruins of Teotihuacan and Monte Alban.

And should I mention the shopping? While we were all there primarily for educational value, everyone wanted to bring Mexican art and artifacts back to their classrooms! And what could be better than purchasing artworks from the artists themselves?

Many teachers obtained grant or professional development monies to help fund their trip. A certificate for fifty-eight staff development hours was awarded at the end of the trip, and college credit was an option. I recommend that teachers include summer travel--especially a "Passport to Discovery'--as part of their professional development plan.

For me, the trip to Mexico truly was a passport to discovery--and an experience I will treasure for the rest of my life.


Ellen Taylor is an art teacher at California Trail Junior High School in Olathe, Kansas. She is the Kansas Art Education Association's Outstanding Art Educator of the Year.
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Title Annotation:Crizmac's art tours
Author:Taylor, Ellen
Publication:School Arts
Geographic Code:1MEX
Date:Dec 1, 2004
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