I was unaware of how rich the French culture was until I met my host family. My host family loved art, literature, music, and films. They were interested not only in French culture but also cultures all over the world. The French love exploring and learning about new cultures, which made it very easy for me to share my Korean-American culture with the people I met aboard. French culture is immersed in art. I have learned so much about how art has shaped and is influencing France, especially Paris, through my art history class. The artwork in the world-renowned museums like the Louve, Orsay, and Orangerie reflect the importance of art in the French culture.
Since I was already exposed to the art loving culture, I was not surprised when Mr. B told me that the students were learning about Cubism, Futurism, and Impressionism in their classrooms. This was not a separate “Art Class” but it was a part of the curriculum in the International School of Paris. At the end of their curriculum, Mr. B asked me to join the class on a field trip to a museum. It was a museum with a lot of Claude Monet’s famous artworks. I did not want to miss this opportunity. I agreed without hesitation. I assumed that the museum trip was going to be pretty boring for the students. I remembered going to museums when I was younger with my classes and I dreaded the entire trip because all we did was listen to a tour guide talk about the history of the artist. None of that interested me. However, the moment the tour started, I knew my assumption was completely wrong. The students were all taking notes and nodding to the things the tour guide was saying. What could have been so different between these kids and me?! After much thought, I realized that it was the culture we grew up in. At least in my school, they did not really emphasize the importance of art, so I was not taught any art history. My high school did not offer any art history classes, which made appreciating art a lot harder. However, these kids were exposed to the art loving French culture for years now. They learned about the artists throughout the year. Even as 5th graders, these students were already beginning to appreciate art in a way I never did when I was their age.
At the end of the tour the class was asked to participate in a very interesting and different activity. Mr. B passed out paper and markers. Students clipped a sheet of paper on their clipboards and sat in front of paintings they admired. Mr. B asked each student to draw the painting. During this activity I felt like I was surrounded by 20 little “Claude Monets”. They were all diligently working on their artworks using their interpretations and perception of each painting. It was truly an eye opening experience because I think it is very rare to experience something like this in the States. After the field trip, the students had discussions with other students about their artwork and Monet’s techniques and influences.
By simply living in a different country, the curriculum is heavily influenced by the culture. The curriculum then goes on to influencing the students’ interests and appreciations.