Category Archives: Museums

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Beyond the Classroom Conference 2015

Last month saw  50+ site based educators gather in Calgary at Glenbow Museum and City Hall to network, share ideas be inspired.  We are a loosely knit group that spans the country – from BC to Newfoundland and the USA.  Every couple of years we gather to rekindle the flame that got us all started in the first place. Here are a few highlights -

Our week started with a keynote delivered by the education rock star, Laurel Schmidt.  Laurel grabbed our imaginations right from the get-go.  We were asked to recall one memory from the past that led us to what we are doing now – and then – what it was about that memory that made it ‘Indelible’.WP_20150615_09_51_58_Pro

What makes our experiences Indelible?

What makes our experiences Indelible?

Our sites work because they inspire curiosity, and with that the desire to dig deeper to find answers.  Learning is personalized and the rewards are authentic and intrinsic.  Having an author read and reflect on your writing builds authentic confidence in your abilities.  We learned about the importance of novelty when learning and how brain science supports what we do and how we do it at our sites.  All in all an inspiring morning filled with ideas to reflect on and act on!

The key takeaway for me was networking with peers in every type of site – from historical sites to nature sites- we all have the same goal of making learning authentic.  A lunch time Pop Up Museum themed with  “Mining the Gems” was an excellent overview of what we do and gave us a chance to see the work being done at other sites.  image

WP_20150616_11_35_03_ProA workshop showing the process of creating the new direction within the Alberta Curriculum was enlightening as it followed the method we use when creating programs and weeks for our teachers. Start with what is important, a big idea, and fan out to find the questions that can be explored.  imageimage

 

If, Then, So… Cool template to think about in our planning!

We wrapped up the conference with a panel of stakeholders that was visually journaled  by Calgary Graphic Recorder, Sam Hesterimage

We wrapped up with the founder and driving force of Beyond the Classroom,  Gillian Kidd.  Gill shared the stage with Margaret Holtschlag, founder of “The Big Lesson” in Michigan.  Always good to reflect back on why we do what we do and why it is important!
WP_20150616_13_58_05_ProCan’t wait to get this group together again in a couple of years!

Pat the Dog

Pat, mascot of the 4th Canadian Field Ambulance, First World War.

 One of the favourite stops when Museum School goes behind the scenes is with a little dog that was brought from Calgary to Flanders in the First World War.  Pat or Paddy, ‘joined’ the #4 Field Ambulance Corps while they were training at the exhibition grounds in Calgary.  He liked a good meal and these soldiers were assigned to eat at one of the nicer café’s in Calgary because there were far too many men to fit in the military mess hall.  Pat eventually hopped on the train and joined them for their trip across Canada and eventually across the Atlantic in a troop ship to England where he arrived, April 28th, 1915.  

SS Zeeland  - name changed to less German sounding SS Northland to transport troops to England.

SS Zeeland – name changed to less German sounding SS Northland to transport troops to England.

On arrival, the soldiers had to sneak Pat ashore as he didn’t have permission to be there.  Luckily a military band was aboard and they put Pat in the bass drum when they arrived in Avon-mouth and got him on dry land. The first thing Pat did when he was released was race into a nearby field and chase the sheep.  An anecdote from that day reports that the Colonel said to the Sergeant Major, “You have to get rid of that dog!” to which the Sergeant Major replied, ” Then you have to get rid of the men.”   Pat stayed.

After some training time in England the troops were sent to Belgium and were involved in the battles of St. Eloi, the Somme, Vimy Ridge, Hill 70 and Passchendale.

There is some information about Paddy in Glenbow’s on-line Maverick’s Exhibit.  There are images in the section titled War and the Home Front, First World War. Information about the WW1 Field Ambulance drivers can be found in “Stories from the Archives”.

Here is Paddy, front and center, with the #4 Canadian Field Ambulance taken in 1918. Of the 81 men who joined this group, 28 remained after the war.  See the Red Cross band he is wearing as a collar.

Paddy front, Harry Howell holding dog

One of the soldiers, Sergeant Harry Howell, was an excellent sketch artist and had plans to create a book after he returned from the war.  The book was never published but Glenbow has some of the original sketches in the archives.  Here is one with Paddy (or Pat):

Pat sketchAfter the war ended, the soldiers wanted to bring  Pat home.  He wasn’t able to travel and was taken to a taxidermist in England who created the Pat we have in our collection.  He went to all the soldiers reunions and in 1972, was donated to Glenbow by a soldier’s family.  He was on display from 1976 to 1990 in a WW1 exhibit on the 4th floor and now resides in our Military History Collection.

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Adrian Wolfleg, First Nations Educator

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Adrian has been our First Nations Educator for the past year but his history with Glenbow goes all the way back to his time as a volunteer docent in 1989. His background as a History Major as well as service with the military and a strong link to arts organizations means he is the perfect fit for sharing stories in almost every area of Glenbow!  His work as an educator in the Niitsitapiisini Gallery is layered with family connections.  His mother, grandmother, and aunts are all pictured in the gallery as well as objects and plants that he has used throughout his life.  For Adrian, this makes the space more like “home” than a gallery in a museum.

Alice and Rose Weaselhead, Siksika c.1948 During the Calgary Exhibition and Stampede Parade
Adrian’s mother and grandmother,Rose and Alice Weaselchild, Siksika c.1948 During the Calgary Exhibition and Stampede Parade

Adrian’s favourite part of the job of Museum Educator is sharing his interests and making the stories relevant and fun for students.  As a volunteer he learned sign language so that he could share stories with hearing impaired visitors.  He has an encyclopedic knowledge of movies and popular culture and he weaves this into his programs, using video game rules and rewards for learning about how different cultures meet their needs.

One of Adrian’s favourite objects is a shirt with the tadpole symbol on it.  The tadpole design speaks to overcoming adversity and accepting change.

Shirt Kainai, early 1900's elk hide, porcupine quills, natural dyes, weasel pelts Owned by Owns Different Horses.
Shirt Kainai, early 1900′s elk hide, porcupine quills, natural dyes, weasel pelts Owned by Owns Different HorsesIMG_3310

What would Adrian add to the Glenbow if he curated an exhibit? The answer to this shows the overlap between Adrian’s many interests.  He would include, as an extension of the Warriors exhibit on 4th floor, a gallery exhibition of photographs depicting Cemeteries from wars Canadians participated in and where thousands of Canadians remain.  This would be an ideal exhibition for Glenbow, honouring Military, History, First Nations and Art.

 

Marcia Slater - Oct 31 2013 - Small

Marcia Slater – Collections Technician

 

 

Marcia Slater - Oct 31 2013 - Small

Meet Marcia Slater.

Marcia is our Collections Technician in Cultural History.  She accepts, processes and looks after our Western Canadian History collection which has approximately 120,000 objects.  That is a very big job!  She loves history and the variety of this vast collection which continually allows for new discoveries, new stories and new things to learn.  An object that recently captured her interest is this ladies’ cigarette case with matching cigarette holder.People and things“It’s a beautiful set, in its own case, beautifully made, with just enough wear to show the owner used it.  It’s enamelled in peacock blue and very stylish, which reflects its era (1920′s) and belonged to a very interesting Alberta woman (Canada’s first female meteorologist).  It’s also interesting to consider it in the current context, in which smoking is becoming increasingly unacceptable.”

Marcia often takes Museum School students “Behind the Scenes” – maybe she will show you more of her favourites!

Glenbow's Pest Control Technician, Katie Fisher with the large deepfreeze.

Katie Fisher and Pest Control

Glenbow's Pest Control Technician, Katie Fisher with the large deepfreeze.
Glenbow’s Pest Control Technician, Katie Fisher with the large deepfreeze.

Katie Fisher is Glenbow’s in house pest expert.  A lifelong museum visitor, Katie wanted a job that involved objects and history, ideally something that was ‘hands-on’!  Museum Conservation fit the bill and a project in the migration habits of the carpet beetle brought Katie to the study of pests.  Preventing damage in a a museum is not just about insects.  Light and moisture can also destroy objects and the floods of 2013 were particularly horrible for some Alberta museums.  Katie was part of the Glenbow team of experts that helped the Museum of the Highwood recover from the flood.

Every object, whether it is on loan from another museum, a new or possible aquisition, or part of the collection returning to the museum must be checked for possible hazards.  If an object is suspected of carrying any stage of insects – it gets a stay in the deep freeze!  This specialized freezer can handle large objects and can be cooled to -30 degrees celcius.  Right now, in our small freezer, is a few tins of supplies from the McClintock Arctic Expedition of 1857.  Canned Ox Cheek Soup, anyone?

Frozen objects from the McClintock Arctic expedition cache of 1857
Frozen objects from the McClintock Arctic expedition cache of 1857

Though it is hard to choose a favourite from over one million artifacts, Katie has a soft spot for the wedding rings that belonged to John and Mildred Ware.  Like most of the objects in our collection, it is their story that makes them special.  John Ware was a cowboy and rancher that was born a slave and gained his freedom after the American Civil War.  He travelled to Alberta on a cattle drive to the Bar U ranch and stayed.  He married Mildred in 1892, shortly after starting his own ranch, and they had five children before Mildred tragically died in 1905.  John, never the same without her, died soon after.  Mildred’s wedding ring was lost until their original house was moved to its present site in Dinosaur Provincial Park and the ring reappeared in the foundation.  The rings are now together again at Glenbow.

Mildred Ware and the Wedding Rings from the Ranching Gallery at Glenbow
Mildred Ware and the Wedding Rings from the Ranching Gallery at Glenbow

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Three Weeks/One School

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.

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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.

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 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.

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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.” 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Student journal - reflecting

Before, During and After Museum School

 At the end of October, CC/OM held a workshop for teachers that are visiting sites this year at Briar Hill School.  Mike West, who was at Museum School in September shared his process for skill building and creating a culture of learning within his class.  Two other teachers from Briar Hill were at Museum School as well, Celeste Ruff and Leslie LeVesconte.  This was a fantastic experience for us because we got to see the impact of the week at Glenbow on three classes. 

Pre-Work was a vital part of each class.  The learning and thinking was made visible up and down the halls and in the classrooms.  Click on the images to make them larger.Pre Work Pre Work What is a museum? Pre work Beginning to think about...

Skills were practiced.

Pre Work - looking at art

At the Museum, the learning was again made visible.  FullSizeRender Artifact whispers

To document their learning, students returned to their journals and drew from their experience to create multi-dimensional representations of their learning.  Expectations were clearly stated.

Rubric for Journal

 

Journal rubric

 The work that was, and still is, being produced clearly demonstrates student centered learning that shows they were engaged and challenged to think deeply.

Journal sample JOW poem1

Open Minds See, Think, Wonder - Go Deeper

Open Minds See, Think, Wonder – Go Deeper

Student journal - reflecting

 Thank you to Briar Hill grade 3/4′s for three fantastic weeks! 

 

Museum grandparent

If the Museum was my Grandparent…

When we meet with teachers long before they come to Museum School, we ask them to think of an underlying theme that will weave throughout their year and their week at Glenbow.  This week, something lovely is happening, one question is revisited each day to focus these grade 3 and 4 student’s learning, exploring and thinking.

“If the Museum was my grandparent, what would I like to inherit?”

Day 1

Oct. 6 Briar Hill

On the final day, the students thought of the word that described their inheritance and then the object or place in the museum that led them to their word.  This was truly a synthesis of what they had been doing all week.

Day 5

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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!)

School Programs 2013-007656

Collaboration is key.

School Programs 2013-007656I have been doing a bit of reading about the interaction between classroom teachers and museum educators when designing school programs.  Turns out there isn’t any, or at least, there is very little.  So, what can be done?  To me, it seems like a no-brainer.  Ask the people who use the museum what they want from the museum.

The Noguchi Museum in New York has a really interesting take on this.  They formed a Think Tank made up of teachers and museum educators to explore the  the question, “What does success look like for a school tour at an art museum?”  The group met five times over the 2012/2013 school year and published their findings which were in the form of suggestions for those “booking, participating in, offering, and leading art museum tours for school groups.”(Noguchi Museum, 2012/13 Teacher Think Tank).

This is where it gets really interesting.  When I looked at the document and then looked at the way school programs are offered and presented in 2013/14  it turns out the museum acted on all of the suggestions.  They immediately changed old policy.  Cool.

What do you think?