Eighth graders visit the MET for art history education


Anoushka Parakh and Zach Hornfeld

This Monday and Thursday, the eighth grade visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s (MET) Hindu and Buddhist sculpture galleries with Upper Division (UD) students in Art History:What is a Masterpiece?, a full-credit art history class taught by Visual Arts Department Chair Dr. Anna Hetherington. It was the first time the trip ran since the Covid-19 pandemic began.

To prepare eighth graders for the trip, Hetherington gave a presentation that introduced art history concepts and instructed students on what to look for when at the MET.

“The eighth graders have been learning about belief systems in their history classes, and through our trip, they are able to connect the iconography of the art to the stories and beliefs they’ve learned about,” Middle Division (MD) History Department Chair Catherine Garrison said. While the trip mainly focused on Hindu and Buddhist art, students can draw on their experience at the MET to analyze art from other regions and religions over the remainder this year, Garrison said.

The aspects of Hinduism and Buddhism that Ved Daga (8) learned about in class helped him understand the artifacts he observed at the MET, he said. Daga realized that there was more to each religion than meets the eye. “When people talk about the Buddha, they often think there’s one main artifact, but there are hundreds in the MET.” 

On the trip, students followed a strict schedule to make sure that they visited a certain set of artifacts, Daga said. The schedule set aside time for the students to explore the museum on their own, which Daga appreciated, he said.

The UD students who led Kayla Ogyaadu’s (8) group made the trip enjoyable, she said. “We actually got lost in the beginning,” she said. “But once we found where we were supposed to go, they were very helpful and explained when each object was made and what purpose it served.”

At the MET, UD art history students instructed students about the artifacts. The goal of the trip was not only to teach MD students about Hindu and Buddhist art, but also to foster connections between the younger and older students, MD history teacher John Eckels said.

Watching UD students teach their younger peers was a rewarding experience for everyone involved, Hetherington said. “To see the Upper Division students, whose last school experience at the MET may have been this eighth grade trip, to now be the docents for the eighth graders was very cool.”