We have been working with some new formats the last couple of years. Originally, Museum School was unofficially limited to no more that two classes from one school within one school year. This had practical reasoning behind it – reach as many schools, teachers and students as possible within the available 28 week year. Open Minds serves two purposes, student learning and teacher professional development and in the early days, the shotgun approach spread this through the community. Well, 20 years later, schools have changed, the methodology in the classroom now mirrors (for the most part) what we are trying to accomplish in the museum – student driven, inquiry based learning, and most schools have a teacher in their population who has participated in Open Minds. So, is it time for us to change? – probably!
We have had more schools apply with three or more classes all part of the same learning team – partly due to demographics, our city is growing, and partly due to school organization. I find working with a team of teachers fantastic! It gives teachers with more experience with Open Minds the opportunity to mentor new teachers and entire grades in schools the opportunity to share their Museum experience. More opportunities means more connections within their entire year.
Our final three weeks were with three grade six classes. The teachers planned their weeks together and shared their resources. For us, it was eye opening to see three different approaches used within one framework. Each week, even though the programs were identical, was completely unique but maintained a common thread to carry back to the school. I think this approach, shared experiences molded to the individual student community and teaching style, worked brilliantly.
The weeks all started with an object based looking activity that challenged the students to look deeply. A “Welcome to Your Week” type of program!
The following day, building on looking deeply, the students participated in a writing workshop with writer and curator, Dennis Slater. Now, they were asked to not only look deeply but to write a piece of fiction based on the object they chose.
Building on this theme of story within object/art, the next day was an immersion into our gallery of arctic themed art to do some poetry writing and art making.
A trip behind the scenes into our collections to look at and hear the stories of a few artifacts continues to reinforce the importance of object as story holder on the second to last day of the week. Students worked individually in the afternoon, seeking out artifacts that interested them and finding their stories.
The last day, using all of the skills from the week ahead, the students used clues from objects to create an imaginary culture and debate the impact to their culture when they are contacted by a different culture. The conversation that this initiated was an excellent kicking off point for their year’s big Idea, “What makes a global citizen?” I think the stories these students found in objects and the importance of preserving the artifacts will affect their view on global citizenship. Cool weeks!
The final word goes to a grade six student,
“Museum school was awesome. We got to put on a Knight’s helmet and gauntlet. We got to spend a whole morning in the Warriors’ gallery, where we had to find any weapon in the gallery that wasn’t a fire-arm and write a story about it. On Thursday, we went into storage, we had to take a special staff elevator up to the 7th floor. Once we got there, Marnie took our group to Patty the dog. Patty was a World War I dog who went with soldiers in Canada all the way to France and helped out the soldiers. Patty was most likely killed by gases, was stuffed, and sent back to Canada where he wound up at the Glenbow. Then we went to hold a one handed 30 pound cavalry mace. In the afternoon we went to Mavericks, where we had to write a story on one of the vehicles. I chose the Curtiss Jenny 4 airplane and wrote an awesome story. In museum school, I learned about Canada’s history, about the pioneers, about European history with weapons, ancient Japan’s history and the First Nations. I learned all about the hardships of life in the olden days, and what it took to be a knight. I would go back because there’s so much stuff that I didn’t get a chance to see, and I want to see it all.”