Category Archives: Pre/Post Museum School

Podcasts from the museum

I’m not sure how into podcasts you are, so at the risk of assuming too much or too little, I want to share something with you.

I got into podcasts during grad school, when I had an hour long transit trip to and from campus each day. I was studying in the US, and although I scoffed at the introductory workshops for international students when they warned of culture shock, I was fully and completely in its throes. So I picked one that I had heard years before on the radio, and remembered that I liked, because I hoped it would help me relate to my new home. It was called: This American Life.

Each episode shares stories around a theme, usually from a journalist or other interesting person, told in narrative and conversational form. Often they’re surprising, heartwarming, shocking, or funny, in some combination. My favorite though, is all of those and of course, it’s got a museum theme.

I’ve been holding off on writing this blog post, because I wasn’t sure how to share this one show with you, without spoiling the episode. While doing a bit of research, I learned just how many museum based podcasts there are… SOO MANY. There’s just a whole lot, and at the risk of stereotyping museums, a fair number of them are boring. I thought if I share some that I’m pretty sure aren’t boring it might be helpful. Plus, with a list I can tell you about This American Life without writing about the story, so you can hear it for yourself. So, here’s a few humble recommendations:

1. This American Life’s “The Feather Heist.” This episode provides a starting off point for a lot of interesting thinking to me. Some of my favorite themes to think with include the “value” of collections and to whom, security in museums and our obligations to collections in relation to our budgets, and the global impacts of fashion (which museums are definitely implicated in, although my wardrobe is not good evidence of this).

2. Everything is Alive‘s “Connor, Painting”. This show is a really interesting way to think about objects. The premise is a talk show in which the host interviews objects, who tell their life story. It’s a perfect fit for the “empathy” theme that directs our work in Open Minds, and it’s super fun to listen to. Just a warning:  there is some sexual innuendo in this episode. Although the magic trick of sexualizing a painting is pretty hilariously bizarre, it might not make sense for young ears.

3. NHM LA Talks by Natural History Family of Museums Los Angeles County. This podcast has too many good episodes to name. Today I listened to one called “Mostly Dead is Slightly Alive” which turned out to be about zombies, neuroscience, and history. The series explores a variety of topics from across the sciences, with perspectives from academics, museum folk, and a whole bunch of plain old fascinating people. This podcast also has an episode about the subject of the feather heist, so you could cross-reference.

4. Working’s How does a Museum Specialist Work? This podcast from Slate explores “what people do all day at their jobs” It has so many interesting episodes for young minds, (umm… but also some episodes that are NSFW, so… use with discretion), including a whole pile of museum related episodes about working as an art auctioneer, an archaeologist, a librarian, a set of jobs at MoMA, and a few jobs from the museum world’s unruly cousins: aquariums. This episode is about Mary Elliott, a curator with the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture, the newest Smithsonian institution on the National Mall. I’ll be honest, this podcast has a bit of a slow burn for me, but even just the idea of it opens some interesting thoughts.

5.  Intangible Alberta by the Royal Alberta Museum. This homegrown podcast is pretty new, and only has a few episodes. I listened to one called Ghosts in the Vault, which  probably isn’t great for nervous folks. But, ghosts are sort of friends of museums, and their presence is often a source of wonder for kids. There’s some interesting space in this episode to think about how stories are constructed, and respect for people and belongings.

Bonus:  You’re Wrong About‘s Yoko Ono Broke Up the Beatles: This podcast uses NSFW language, but I threw this episode in here because their whole ethos is looking deeper and allowing things to be as complicated as they really are + Contemporary Calgary has a YOKO exhibit coming up this spring!

All of these podcasts are free either directly from the web, or from a variety of podcasting apps, but send me a message if you have any trouble finding them. Oh, and if you’ve heard some good ones, let me know!

 

Going it alone…

We love being part of your year… but we know that it’s not feasible for a class to come over and over. We know there are barriers to coming here both within your school, and built in to our application process (Sorry! We try to give new applicants, and applicants who bring new teachers a chance, just because we’re over subscribed, not because we don’t love you! We do!! We adore teachers who see such value here that they want to come back!!)

So I wanted to share what it looked like when one teacher, dismayed that they couldn’t come, decided to “go it alone”

- firstly, they weren’t alone. We’re happy to help support teachers who want to emulate an Open Minds experience without a week at a site. This can look different depending on your needs. Unfortunately we can’t offer financial help, but we’re happy to point you to resources, and walk with you if you come across challenges.

- journals were still a huge part of the year. As if this teacher was planning for a week at a site, they made journaling a huge part of their year. Using the Journey into Journalling resource, they took  time to explore techniques and returned to ones that were successful for their students. They looked closely at objects and art, as jump off points into new units, ideas, and concepts.

- they spent time in new places. They used what was available to them in new ways, field trips became field studies, and any time off school grounds was something to explore with journals, (even trips to the pool! This teacher had students journal before and after the swim… picking up on emotional experiences, concepts of buoyancy, and uses of energy). They also explored places in their school that are less used for study. (How exciting is it for students to go into places they’re not normally allowed… even if it’s just the gym equipment room!)

- the engaged community. This teacher brought in experts that were within their sphere of connection, either physically, or through Skype. Students planned for these visits by examining what they knew about this person or their expertise, and what they wondered, then generated questions.

- finally, they came back! We love seeing teachers re-apply after a few years trying Open Minds concepts on their own, because we know that we’ll learn from you as much as you’ll learn in this place!

Best of luck with your year without us! We’ll miss you, but we can’t wait to hear what happens for you next, so apply again soon!!

Strategies for bringing your ELL student to Museum School

One thing some of you asked for this year, was help supporting your ELL students document their learning, and be successful at Glenbow. We’ve been working with a few concepts for a while, testing some new ones out, and asking our colleagues, and here’s what we’ve learned…

Keep us in the loop

If you are working with ELL students, give us a heads up. We can work together to come up with some goals for that student, and some tools we can use throughout the week. We have incredible access to visuals that we can use with a bit of extra planning.

Practice thinking routines

Everyone should have a thinking routine or two that they’re comfortable with before they come. You may make some accommodations to the primary ones you use for your ELL students. Having a rubric or visual guide for your thinking routine definitely helps uptake for ELL learners (make your own, or download one).

 Bring your regular routines here

If you have regular routines around things like starting your day, changing focus, lunch and snacks, or going outside, use them here too. You may not be able to bring all your routines, but if you use a special chime, or chart, or tool – feel free to bring them here.  If you have a particular way of getting students attention, let us know and we’ll use yours. We have ways we do things at Museum School, but we’re always willing to adapt and use ways that best suit your class.

 “Teach Hub” recommends learning to Stop & Think… (the following is from their website)

Teach the “Stop and Think” strategy to help students evaluate their own learning. If you observe a student having difficulty in class, ask them to stop their work and think about the following questions: What am I struggling with? What can I do differently? What questions do I have? Who can help me answer those questions?

I think the crux here is, making an environment in your classroom where students know they can and should ask for help if they’re struggling. This is a tough one for sure (isn’t it “neat” how kids deflect when they’re struggling?), so if anyone has strategies for making this work in their classroom, I’d love to learn more.

 Do some practice sketching

Have students work with object sketching before you come. Your object doesn’t have to be something exotic (although exotic is easier to find that we think sometimes -  my young folks have asked more than once how those “big CD thingies” work, and I dust off the record player for their amazement). It’s just helpful if everyone knows that when you ask them to sketch, you’re asking them to notice detail, take time, and capture the object.

 Prepare everyone to use labels

Adding simple labels might also be a good beginning step for ELL learners, and it’s worthwhile for everyone to start something like a “word bank” in your classroom. Before a word goes up on the wall, make sure everyone knows what it means (“rough” is accompanied by feeling several rough objects etc.) If the gap between the ELL student and the other students is really big, have everyone make presentations for each word. Ask them to imagine teaching their word to someone who doesn’t know what it means. This activity can also be a reminder that part of your year long inquiry is “slow learning” – really taking the time to explore ideas and concepts.

Do you have some strategies for supporting ELL students that have worked well for you? We’d love to hear about your work in this area too!

Rolling back on a concept: Thinking Routines

I wanted to write a bit about Thinking Routines. As a person who is pretty new to them myself, I often wonder how much “common knowledge” there is around these funny little things we do. When I first heard of them, they were definitely spoken of as though a “thinking routine” was like an apple: something that obviously everyone understood what is was, why it was, and what it did. This absolutely wasn’t true for me, and I had to spend some time working with them, using them, researching and understanding them. I thought I would share what I learned, just in case it triggers any interesting thoughts for any of you. If not, my apologies and please carry on to more interesting areas of the internet!

Here’s my first epiphany: “Thinking Routines” isn’t a name for some special tool, it’s just literally a “routine” that you carry out to help you “think.” That’s the most important part. Every day we train our brains to do things, it’s like a muscle so if we work with specific parts of it, those are the parts that get stronger (biology friends please don’t be mad, I mean this as a metaphor). If we train small brains to “think” then they will. The routine helps learners access the process of deeper thinking easily, by strengthen the learning muscle/pathway, and by providing a framework through which to understand new things.

Okay, but some “Thinking Routines” are specific. There are all kinds! At Museum School we use the ones that Harvard developed to promote artful and creative thinking, but anyone can make up a thinking routine for use with learners. There might even be some cases when your made up routines work much better, because you know the needs and interests of your students. So don’t be shy about developing your own.

There’s lots of different ways we can use those routines. Some promote creative thought, others analytical thought, others visual thought… the list goes on. A class that is totally ready when they walk in the museum doors, has been using a few different routines, and is comfortable with 3-4 different ones that serve different ends. We can adapt a lot of our plans to whatever routines you’ve been working on, and you can suggest them when we partner-teach at the museum.

The best routines are adaptable; they can be quick data gathering exercises, or they can be drawn out with detail. We’ll have a variety of time constraints here, so ideally thinking routines also help us be flexible.

There’s a world of literature on how routines help learners, but the most impactful things to my practice has been learning how routines build confidence (learners know what is expected of them so they are able to build independence and self-assurance), and how they establish healthy patterns so that there’s less conflict (less opportunity for rebellion if everyone knows and is comfortable with routines).

We’re always eager to learn about thinking routines, so if you’ve tried some or made up your own, we’d love to hear about it!

Working to know truth

Some of you folks requested support connecting with resources to teach some of the harder parts of Canadian history in grade appropriate ways. There is just a ton of stuff online at the moment, so please consider this a jumping off point, but I’ve gone hunting of some really stellar resources to get you started..

1. First Nations Child and Family Caring Society’s Spirit Bear

This national organization based on the Squamish First Nation worked towards the betterment of families through research and best practice sharing. They recently developed the Spirit Bear Campaign (a book and a bear with teaching materials), and also have some classroom curriculum guides on their website (I feel they’re a bit dense, and sometimes seem off grade level, but there is so much in each one, and many ideas can be adapted).

2. This Beautiful Map of Indigenous territories worldwide 

This map is still in development, but it’s a great tool to just pull up whenever you’re talking about a place. It helps add history to conversations about place, and reminds us of the layers on the land that stretch back in time.

3. The provincially developed lessons plans 

These have been through several iterations, and much consultation. Some Glenbow folks have helped with this process too. We’d love to know if any of you are using these, or what you think of them.

4. This Book List from CBC

There are a lot of Reading to Reconciliation lists, but many of them don’t have age listings with each book. This list does, bu it’s otherwise a bit sparse. Please add a comment if you know if a better one.

5. Canadian Museum of Human Rights Toolkit

This page has a whole directory of lesson plans that can be searched by grade, subject, province, and language. It’s an excellent resource for all kinds of difficult topics, not just Indigenous subjects.

P.S. – If you’re looking for sources of adult education… Marine recently took a MOOC and I am a near constant reader – we’d be be happy to make recommendations or exchange resources etc.

The math is there, whether we artists like it or not…

“Focus for a moment on an object in front of you. How do you understand its shape? How would you represent it by drawing it? Imagine turning or rotating it. What would it look like then? How could you create something with the same shape?”

This is spatial intelligence, and it’s fundamental to math, but one of the most interesting places to think about it is in art. Spatial intelligence combines physical knowledge based on visual cues world with abstract thought, and research shows that spatial training improves children’s ability to understand math.

This type of thinking & research helps us understand just how flawed and silly that old “you’re either arts or math brained” thinking really is. Want some real world proof? This summer Marnie and I spent some time in the National Building Museum (which we were not very excited about – we have our own stereotypes to deconstruct I guess). BUT… it was amazing. We happened to catch an aptly named exhibit (Fun House) by a team of artists/architects that reminded us just how entwined art thinking and math thinking are.

When we’re looking at art, or creating it, we’re thinking about space, shape, distance, angles, and design. All fundamental concepts in math. Admittedly this is a different way of thinking about math than our curriculum’s describe (feel free to tell skeptics that students counted the stairs). In museums, we’re rarely doing the math that is most thought of when we say “math class”… we’re doing the math that is foundational to our understandings of those concepts. Museum math is math that helps us understand.

Take, for example… the work of Rebecca Mitchell and Andrea Kantrowitz at the Visual Arts and Sources for Teaching week long teacher institute. During a two hour workshop, they had students study one object, and one dance performance. Each student looked at each piece from their own perspective, and recorded.

“We gathered the teachers back together and placed the drawings of the sculpture on the floor. After a walk around the circle to look at all of them, we discussed the variety of approaches – while some people showed multiple viewpoints in one drawing, others focused on what they could see from their vantage point. Next we looked at everyone’s notes/sketches of the dance, which revealed even more variety. Some people focused on one dancer’s movements, while others watched for overall patterns among all of the dancers. Still others counted steps, traced arcs of the movements, or looked for relationships between the dances and the grid below their feet. All of these approaches yielded successful results, and the variety of solutions enriched the group’s understanding of both the sculpture and dance.”

All this learning, led the group to explore how artists (or anyone) moves from concept to three dimensional work. In other words, how does an object, art, dance etc. get made? How does one move from theory into the physical world? Design thinking, iteration, testing, math.

If that’s not enough for you… there’s actually a Museum of Math, and despite their website’s… uh… ugliness… (sorry. Back to the arts/math issue again), it’s actually got some useful tools (including award winning math lesson plans).

Memory Sketch

Memory sketching is one of the thinking routines that we recommend getting your students used to before coming to the museum. Basically, you have them look at something, then later, ask them to sketch it.
You can work up to this by giving them an object to sketch, taking it away, and having them sketch immediately. This builds up the skill so students aren’t so intimidated when they’re tasked with drawing something they haven’t seen in a while.
Doing this helps them build skills in pattern and design element recognition. Also it takes some of the pressure off making exact sketches. Like most things we do, it’s helpful for you to lead by doing. Show them your messy abstract drawings of everyday things and they’ll know it’s okay to try.

book photo Journal drawing

The weight of decisions

Well,

All of the coordinators have been so busy at all the Campus Calgary Open Minds sites these past few weeks pouring over your applications, letters, and all the interesting material you sent us.

This is always the most difficult part of our year, because we never want to say no to any of you, or your wonderful students. We send many emails, meet in classrooms and coffee shops, send notes, and develop elaborate systems to help us fairly evaluate.

But it’s so hard.

We wish we could have all the classes who apply come to their site of choice; but we know, whether you come or not, Calgary students are lucky to have so many wonderful and creative teachers who will make their 2017-2018 year amazing.

May 1st is decision day. If by chance your proposal isn’t accepted this year, keep applying, keep developing inquiry in your programs, and keep being the wonderful teachers we know you are!

Perspective & Productivity

Last week the Open Minds school teachers and coordinators met for a little professional development and a lot of new ideas. The theme for the evening was to look at our environments a bit more closely, and watch out for the things that we often miss. This was a great tie in to some of the more general themes of CCOM

The facilitators, those lovely folks who have the privilege of running one of this city’s most creative and engaging educational experiences, sent us all outside. It was an absolutely beautiful night, crisp and cool and a bit nostalgic with the long shadows in the fading light.

Our first mission was to explore on our walk through a particular lens. As we sat around tables in small groups, we discussed and debated and picked a role. One group chose poets, another chose by-law officers, another mathematicians. The idea was to look at our environment from the perspective of a particular role, and see what we might normally miss.

Our second task was to use a particular journaling technique to capture the insights of our new viewpoint. When teachers join the Open Minds School Program they’ve given a fantastic book called “Journey into Journaling” (here’s a description of the book based on the Calgary model, but described by the good folks over at Museum School London). The book describes all types of different tools to capture experiences through journaling. Some of the favorite techniques of teachers at our table were:

The 60 second sketch

(students put as much detail into their picture as they can, but only for 60 seconds, so a lot of the inhibitions of drawing are lost in the rush of time)

 Character creation

(students make up a character that may have used the object or interacted with the environment)

 Sense journaling

(students record senses connected with the object or environment)

My group chose to take our walk through the lens of a psychologist, using the journaling technique of just looking for colors. As soon as we went outside we realized that perhaps we set our own standards a bit high, and after a short discussion we changed our profession to architects (if only it were that easy!) But it was a great lesson; surely we could have done the exercise as psychologists, it wouldn’t have been impossible, it just felt too hard. How lucky that we, as adults, can just change the assignment to suit our needs. I wonder how assignments would change if I gave children the same power.

My big “ah-hah” moment of the night came as I was journaling. Just seeing the Calgary skyline through colors brought me to some interesting thoughts (nationalism, ecological design or the appearance of it, personal glorification, materials, etc.) and I found it interesting to apply a very specific lens to the view. Interesting and perhaps a little embarrassing, as I was drawing the Bow building in my black pen I wrote “Bow building…. Blue”

AH-HAH!!!

Oh boy. How many times have I looked at that building and not made that connection? But we’re not really trained to look deeper are we? (okay okay….I know I’m not really setting the bar very high here).

On our second walk about we were invited to look through whatever lens we wished, we weren’t bound by our group, nor by the facilitators. I get the sense that the second round was a lot more productive for folks, just because after you’ve been restricted, it’s so much more exciting to be free.

On the other hand, freedom does sometimes lead to chaos, and I know some of us likely just stood around and chatted for our last walk…

I think I’ll leave this post right there & head back to the students… thinking about how I can use their time here to be the counterpoint freedom to their lives at school, and how I can make sure that with freedom, they stay productive and make the most of their time together. Maybe I need to re-think what productivity really is…

A wonderful night, lots of learning, and a great opportunity to connect.

News: April 2015

Campus Calgary/Open Minds is holding another learning opportunity. This one will feature a Pop Up Museum!  Participants are asked to bring one artifact that represents the impact of the CCOM  experience on their class and their year.  The artifact could be a photo, journal, music, artwork or whatever you want!  When participants arrive they will be asked to create a label and add their artifact to the museum.  Let’s see what happens!  Some information on pop ups can be found here:  Pop Up Museum and here: Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History – Pop up

Participants will be given the opportunity to share their stories.  At the conclusion of the evening, we will create a collaborative art piece that reflects the conversations and stories that were inspired by the work done this year. Here is the Poster of Information:IMG_3878

Where: CBE Education Center 1221 8 St SW

When: Tuesday, April 28th, 2015

RSVP to Jennifer Gray by April 24th  jlgray@cbe.ab.ca

Doors open at 4:00 Workshop from 4:30 to 7:00pm

Hope to see you and your artifacts there!

 

Other things that have caught our eye!

From Judy Willis’s ‘Learning and the Brain’ :  Sleep Deprivation

When Class Is Dismissed, the Brain Works Overtime

Teachers’ working hours go far beyond the 8am to 3pm schedule of their students. There are hours spent at faculty meetings, correcting homework, preparing for the next day – and then there is the worrying. Nothing I ever did in a hospital emergency room or doing CPR required the intense mental energy needed to keep 30 kids attentive enough to learn what I was teaching.

Good teachers are like jugglers keeping a dozen balls in the air so come nighttime, with alarm set for 6 a.m. to finish grading papers, memories of the day that’s gone – including the students that didn’t understand something, forgot their lunch or were embarrassed by wrong answers – become sleep resistant barriers. Add to these the financial stress, about potential loss of income from spending cuts and job losses, and you have cycle of insomnia and, with it, a band of additional consequences.

The High Cost of Sleep Lost

With inadequate sleep comes irritability, forgetfulness, lower tolerance of even minor annoyances, and less efficient organization and planning. These are the very mental muscles teachers need to meet the challenges of the next day. In wanting to do a better job the next day, the brain keeps bringing up the worries that deny it the rest it needs to do that job.

Studies of teachers’ response to high job strain reveal they spend more time ruminating about work-related issues and their brains take longer to unwind. Sleep hours suffers as well as sleep quality.

We need sleep to think clearly, react quickly, and create memories. It is during the later hours of sleep (especially between the sixth and eighth hour) when the brain releases the neurochemicals that stimulate the growth of the memory connections. The average teacher is reported to sleep six hours a night, falling short of the most valuable sleep time.

It is also during sleep that the brain has some its most profound insights and does some of its most creative problem solving. During the day, the neural networks for highest cognition are kept busy directing the rest of the brain’s moment-to-moment decisions, choices, prioritizing, and just getting through the day. At night, these executive control circuits are free from those distractions. As seen on brain imaging, these regions can be extremely active during sleep. After such brain activity, the subjects often awaken with solutions to problems, new insights, and ideas for creative innovation.

If you are a sleep deprived teacher you may not be aware of the term “woodpeckering” but you have probably done it. It happens the following a bad night’s sleep. You’re sitting in a long meeting and you can barely keep your eyes open, so you prop your head up with your hand. Next thing you know, you are jerking your sleeping head back to its upright position. Do this a few times and you are “woodpeckering.” I thought I knew sleep deprivation when I did my medical internship. That year I frequently went 36 hours with no sleep. When I finished my residency in neurology, I welcomed the promise of full nights of sleep ever after. It went pretty well for the next ten years until I became a schoolteacher and experienced a whole new level of sleep deprivation.

Sleep Tight Tips When You’re Out of Pixie Dust

Increasing sleep time from six hours or less to eight hours promotes the growth of the brain connections that increase memory up to 25% and restore emotional calm, alert reflectiveness, and job efficiency. Here are some general and teacher-specific tips.

The best “sleep hygiene” includes regular sleep and wake schedules – even on weekends. Exercise is also good, but avoid vigorous exercise in the two hours before bed sleep. Vigorous exercise releases adrenalin and noradrenalin, both stimulants that could delay falling asleep. Vigorous exercise before bed also means it will take longer for your body to cool down to the lower temperature that promotes sleep. It is, however, great listen to calming music and do gentle stretching, yoga, and progressive muscle relaxation (going through each muscle group and tensing and relaxing it) before getting into your cozy bed.

Thinking about what you eat and drink before bed also has an impact. You may think you are avoiding caffeine, but look carefully at teas, soft drinks, cold and headache medications where caffeine may be hiding. Alcohol near bedtime might help you fall asleep, but when it wears off, you’ll awaken in the middle of the night and have trouble falling back to sleep. Finally, the environment in which you sleep should be cooler as this is more sleep conducive.

And For All a Good Night

For teachers, bedtime rituals can clear your brain of that ruminating about work-related issues so why not have a warm bath with relaxing music before you go to bed. It’s important to leave worries aside – literally – so try writing them down so you won’t be concerned that you’ll forget them.

If some worries do wedge themselves into your sleep cycle and awaken you, expel them by writing them down on that external brain notecard. Most importantly, let your last thoughts include self-recognition for the critically vital work you do and drift to dreamland recalling the day’s school successes and the faces to which you brought smiles.

 

Keep igniting,

Judy Willis, M.D., M.Ed.

jwillisneuro@aol.com
www.RADTeach.com