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Connecting Collections: Integrating Modern and Contemporary Art into the Classroom

This summer Museum School headed to New York for some intensive learning.  We participated in the program,”Connecting Collections: Integrating Modern and Contemporary Art into the Classroom“.  It was organized by the education staffs of MoMA, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art.

Before we left for New York, each participant was given two artworks to research.  This gave us the opportunity to explore the abundant online resources for teachers on each of the museum’s websites.  (MoMa, Guggenheim, Whitney, Met)  This is often an overlooked resource – art museums have a lot of art and content about art!  You will find artist and curator videos, art reproductions, lesson plans and much more.

When we arrived on our first morning, we broke into two groups looking for story connection and history/social study connections.  MoMA is a massive, crowded, overwhelming space filled with mind blowing art.  Somehow, our educators carved out space for us to work and discover how ‘theme’ can be developed and woven through carefully chosen works of art.

Picasso tableau

At the Whitney we were treated to a Jeff Koon retrospective and challenged with finding good questions to dig deep into the world of Koons!  How can you tell if you have created an open ended question?  It doesn’t have a correct answer. (That question, ironically, wasn’t open ended.)

Jeff Koons, "Play Doh"

At the Guggenheim we explored when, what and how much content do we give students when we teach.  This is the heart of inquiry based learning.  Without fail, the curiosity should come first.  We remember content when it was something we desire to know. 

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We went rooftop at the Met. Definitely my favourite view of New York.  Spectacular.  Three different educators with three different approaches involved us in a multidimensional, sensory and argumentative look at modern art.  We used drawing, debating and our senses to experience art. Great day!

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To wrap our week, author and educator, Laurel Schmidt, talked about learning, inquiry and the greatness that can be achieved in the classroom.  Inspiring stuff.  How do we learn? Novelty.  How do we make that learning indelible? In a number of ways:

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The week wrapped with a ‘Share Fair’.  Putting our learning into Practice.  It felt a bit like what I imagine speed dating would feel like except it had the energy of a bee hive.  Great ideas, great energy, great week.

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(Photo credit to Connecting Collections Teacher Institute Facebook page – check it out!)

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