Museum Visits: Autumn Edition

Congratulations parents, you made it through the summer and the first month of school! By now, I hope you are settling into a routine and finding that you have a few free afternoons to enjoy this glorious time of year. While many of you are out apple-picking or in the pumpkin patch, the National Mall is another viable option. It can offer a cost-friendly opportunity where you can divide your time between the museums and taking in the beauty of the Nation’s Capital.

For this year’s fall picks, we have two categories: autumn-inspired exhibits and newly-opened features.

Autumn

PreK class making their own Arcimboldo portraits.

PreK class making their own Arcimboldo portraits.

Four Seasons in One Head is tucked deep inside the National Gallery’s main level in a room that is often forgotten but should never be ignored. Arcimboldo, known for his distinctive portraits in which faces are formed from natural materials, depicts the four seasons in this image. This portrait has an element of mystery that will pique a child’s curiosity and it offers a strong connection to what your child is observing everyday outside. To make deeper connections bring along straw and autumnal fruits for the child to touch and interact with during your visit (note: keep all materials in a sealed plastic bags).

Artifact Walls- You Must Remember This at the National Museum of American History is a no-brainer when it comes to fall-themed visits. Situated adjacent to the Warner Brothers Theater in the Constitution lobby of the National Museum of American History Museum, the cases showcase a selection of Hollywood costumes. In the past, it has featured such classics as robes from the Harry Potter films and Super Man’s cape. With Halloween fast approaching, this is a great stop for the family who wants to brainstorm costume ideas. It is also a learning opportunity for children to think about the process of costume making. PreK children might enjoy sketching their Halloween costume or working with an adult to make a list of materials you will need for the costume.   These simple activities will encourage fine motor development and planning skills. Younger children might enjoy reading a book where one of the costumes are featured or simply bringing a favorite book in which a character wears a costume.

image (7)Food: Transforming the American Table 1950–2000 also at the National Museum of American History is the perfect stop as we begin to approach Thanksgiving.   This exhibition demonstrates the inclusive nature of American culture as seen through food. Young children can see examples of our multicultural food identity in their everyday lives as they accompany you to the grocery store or eat at a local restaurant. Before your museum visit, identify foods in your kitchen that originate from countries other than America and then see if you can find them in the exhibition. Infants and toddlers, on the other hand, might enjoy taking a stroll through the space and matching cooking implements from home with ones on display. End your visit by sitting at the large table planning your Thanksgiving meal or reading a book about family meals.

What’s New

Don’t forget that the Smithsonian is also home to the Discovery Theater. On November 23 and 24, the theater will host Mother Earth and Me: Sister Rain and Brother Earth. This interactive musical uses life-size puppets to tell the story of Mother Nature and her determination to save the Earth from drought – with the help of the audience. Recommended for ages 4-8, this story conveys the importance of working together to protect the Earth.

The Great Inka RoadThe National Museum of the American Indian has it all! It is brand new and showcases the museum’s cutting edge collaboration with the company ideum to capture 3D imaging of the ancient Incan capital of Cusco. The images can be viewed on an interactive touch table and are completely spherical. This technological innovation allows visitors to move through the images in all four directions and transports viewers into the space of the pictures. But that is far from the only interactive element. The exhibit also features several video and audio elements which include bilingual storytelling and two “flythrough” stations where you can take a virtual tour of Cusco.

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Family workshop participants heading into the Sackler Gallery.

Sōtatsu: Making Waves opens October 24th at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery and based on prior experience, this will be a great stop for the family. The spacious galleries in the Sackler are often quiet and work well for families who might need a little space. If the two screens highlighted on the Sackler’s website: Waves at Matsushima and Dragons and Clouds  are any indication, the exhibition will be full of lively, dramatic imagery that will capture a young child’s imagination.  In addition to featuring large-scale Japanese screens (perfect for young viewers) hanging scrolls and fans will also be included. It is a great opportunity to introduce young children to these mediums and experiment with making your own versions. Don’t forget to check out the ImaginAsia classroom schedule on the Sackler’s website for the all-ages offering tied to this exhibition!

Children are Citizens: A Collaboration with Project Zero (Part II)

Book ImageChildren are Citizens

On April 25, 2015 at the National Gallery of Art several DC schools, including SEEC, and Harvard’s Project Zero celebrated the launch of a book authored by over 300 students. The book was the result of a research and professional development project entitled: Children are Citizens: Children and Teachers Collaborating across Washington, D.C. The premise of this project is the belief that children are as much part of the community as their adult counterparts. They should not only be able to voice their opinions, but also participate in their community. Through their participation children will learn to see other’s points of view, work together, and understand how we are all interconnected, thus creating an informed and thoughtful citizenry who will become active participants in our democracy.  To learn more about Project Zero and this collaboration visit here.

SEEC’s Role

The first phase of the project entailed some thoughtful discovery. Children and teachers had several conversations about what they thought of their city, what they would like to change, important people and places. The second phase culminated in a book where SEEC students focused on their relationship with the museums on the National Mall.

Three classes participated in this project—PreK3, PreK4 and Kindergarten. Our first installment in this series featured our PreK4 class (insert link) and this installment will explore our PreK3 class, the Wallabies. Their section of the book focused on their favorite parts of the Air and Space Museum, the Hirshhorn Museum and the National Museum of American History.

This interview was conducted with, Erin Pruckno, Wallaby teacher.

Erin Pruckno with her PreK3 Wallaby Class

Erin Pruckno with her PreK3 Wallaby Class

What made you want to participate in this project?

I wanted to participate in this project because the concept of citizenship and education is something I’m very interested in and was a major part of my master’s degree in International Education. In my studies, I encountered a lot of scholarship about citizenship education—how we educate students to be citizens, how students are citizens, the definitions of citizenship—however, not many touched upon citizenship and young children. This always irked me because, as an early childhood educator, I believe wholeheartedly that education at this age matters so much and that young children should be treated as citizens who have a vital role in our communities and our futures. So, I jumped at the opportunity to put to action these ideas.

Could you describe the process through which your class participated in the project?

We began by going on investigatory visits to the museums we were covering for our contribution to the book the project published. The Wallabies contributed pages on the Hirshhorn Museum, the National Museum of American History, and the National Air and Space Museum. During these visits, I looked for clues to what the students were interested in, as well as documenting their experiences in these spaces. Later in our classroom, we followed up with conversations on our visits; asking them about what was important about our museums, what other children should know about them, our favorite things there. I really wanted to encourage a sense of ownership from our children and to convey their passion and expertise to the book’s audience. We would then go on follow-up visits to the museums, continuing our conversations, and then later illustrating some of the things they saw or described.

Visiting the Air & Space Museum

Visiting the Air & Space Museum

Can you outline how this project was implemented in your classroom?

We tried to integrate the project into our already existing courses of exploration. For example, when we were learning about space, a trip to NASM was easy to do since it aligned with our topic and we could have a museum visit as well as research trip for the project. Other times, we set aside days to visit the museums and document our learning just for the purpose of the project.

How did the professional development portion of this project help or change your ideas of how to teach or connect children to the city in which they live?

As a professional development opportunity, the project really challenged me to think more about how I document student learning and also how I engage them in conversations. The method I’ve often relied upon with my class is to pose a question, then let students take turns to respond. However, when doing this, we have less of a dialogue among

the class and more of a back-and-forth between me and individual students. This project encouraged me to take a step back during classroom conversations and listen more—allowing students to talk to each other instead of directly to me.

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Making maps of the museums

The project seems to emphasize collaborations and discussion, is there a conversation you had among your students that really stands out?

Some of our most interesting conversations started when I would ask the Wallabies to share the most important thing to know about the museums and the students began talking about things you can’t do in museums. As I sat back and listened, letting them guide the conversation (which was, as I said, a challenge and learning experience for me), dramas would unfold about why we couldn’t touch exhibits or the planetarium screen. They came up with elaborate stories about how touching the screen would make a hole, creating a problem, workers would have to fix it, and the president and other people coming to the museum would feel sad that it was broken.

How do you think your students views of DC changes during the course of the project?

My hope was that my students expanded their understanding of other children in D.C. They already have a strong understanding of their families’ communities (coming from neighborhoods all over D.C., Virginia, and Maryland) and of our SEEC community, but I wanted them to think more about other students in D.C.  By asking them to think of what other children need to know about the museums, I think they became more aware of how there are children outside our community who do not know the museums as intimately as they do, and that these other students might have different perspectives on D.C. that we can both learn from and share our knowledge with.

What was one of your more challenging moments during the process?

As I mentioned, facilitating conversations in a way that encouraged students to have a dialogue among them was a challenge, but a good learning experience for us. Initially, some questions were difficult for students to answer such as those that asked them to think about D.C. broadly, but over the course of the project it became easier to provoke conversation as we broke down things into more manageable pieces, like discussions about individual museums.

Visiting the Hirshhorn as part of their study of light and dark.

Visiting the Hirshhorn as part of their study of light and dark.

What was one of the most rewarding moments during the process?

During one conversation, a student exclaimed to the class, “Guys! I know something!” I loved her enthusiasm, eagerness, and confidence in sharing her knowledge. This moment also summed up the project for me. I wanted to help my students show that even though they are young, they know something, many things in fact, about their community and Washington, D.C and that their contributions to our understanding of our city are to be valued and heard.

Fountain Fun

DSCN3881Pools, beaches, lakes, sprinklers…it’s that time again! Children all over the US are enjoying summer-time to its fullest and likewise, parents are looking for water-inspired activities. Here in DC, we are lucky enough to have a number of public fountains that are both beautiful and refreshing. Fountains capture the imagination of children, so why not take this opportunity to create a learning experience?

Duckling FountainInfants
Infants often have mixed feelings about water, it can be both scary and exhilarating. Why not introduce them to water through their senses, especially sight, sound and touch. Simply draw their attention to different aspects of the fountain.

  • Do they hear that sound? Mimic the roar of the fountain.
  • Describe the color of the water.
  • Connect the fountain to the actual feeling of water by getting their hands wet.
  • At home, identify other places where you might find water and remind them of their visit to the fountain.

Toddlers

Toddlers are excited by new things and fountains are no exception. Take the time to explore the fountain and ask simple questions about its design:

  • What direction is the water moving?
  • Is there water that is still, where?
  • From where do you think the water is coming?
  • What else do you see besides water?
  • Do you see any pictures or decorations?
  • Try making your own fountain at home with a hose and baby pool.

Preschool and UpFirefly Fountains

By now your child has seen a few fountains and you can begin to investigate the concept further. Here are some fun multidisciplinary ideas:
  • Rainbows, light and water. This blog has some nice experiments you can easily duplicate.
  • Experiment with force and getting water to move in a certain direction. You can even perform this experiment at home if you are feeling adventurous.
  • Discuss why fountains are used: are they pretty, do they help us remember something, are they for cooling off, do people seem to like them?
  • Ask them to choose a location in your community and design their own fountain.

Favorite DC Fountains

Fountain at the Hirshhorn

Fountain at the Hirshhorn

  • Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
  • National Museum of American History (Constitution Ave. Entrance)
  • US Navy Memorial Plaza
  • National Gallery of Art
  • National Museum of the American Indian
  • Senate Fountain
  • WWII Memorial Rainbow Pool
  • Bartholdi Fountain
  • What is your favorite community fountain? Leave us a message!