LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A new study shows that the critical thinking skills of students who visited Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art were stronger than those of children who hadn't visited the museum, the study's authors announced Monday.
Researchers from the University of Arkansas' College of Education and Health Professions studied nearly 11,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade at more than 120 schools and found that students from rural areas and high-poverty schools benefited the most from visiting the Bentonville museum, which opened in November 2011.
The students were tested after visiting the museum on a variety of measures, including art knowledge and critical thinking skills. Their results were compared with the results of students who did not visit the museum.
"We found that students who attended a school tour at Crystal Bridges demonstrated stronger critical thinking skills, displayed higher levels of tolerance, had more historical empathy and developed a taste for being a cultural consumer in the future," said Jay Greene, head of the university's Department of Education Reform and one of the study's organizers.
The results of the study were published in the journal Education Next.
Brian Kisida, a senior research associate with the university and a study organizer, said visiting the museum was a "broadening experience" for the students.
The researchers spoke at a news conference at the museum.
Alice Walton, daughter of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. founder Sam Walton, who used her fortune to bankroll the museum, said the study should inspire school administrators to schedule more field trips to culturally significant destinations.
Kisida said educators are under tremendous pressure to ensure students do well on standardized tests and that there is a trend for field trips to be rewards for good performance, including taking students to the movies or an amusement park.
The Willard and Pat Walker Foundation gave the museum $10 million to finance school field trips to Crystal Bridges, covering all costs for any school group that could reach the museum on a day trip.
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