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Re: (LONG) Why Teachers don't use Museum Educational Curriculum

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From: Maggie White (mwhiteaz_at_TeacherArtExchange)
Date: Sun Oct 15 2000 - 07:53:49 PDT


GladRabbit001@cs.com wrote:
>
> <snip> If you have had an
> experience with a museum that was positive, tell me about it. If you have
> had an experience with a museum that wasn't, I want to hear about that as
> well.

and San D let loose with:
>
> <snip> They are intimidated by the overwhelming amount of art, the quietness of
> the building,and they are afraid to speak about the work because essentially they
> feel someone has decided it is important enough to be at the Met, and what could
> they add to the dialogue. <snip>
>
> Smile when we do come....my high school students all have crossed off Museum
> Curator from their lists of possible careers because of the 'seriousness' of the
> docents they have had experience with over the years.

Funny you should ask this question; I just got back last night from
taking some students to the Phoenix Art Museum and the Heard Museum. We
go every year, and I always wonder why I do this to myself: the
paperwork, the permission slips, getting up at 4:30 a.m., getting back
at 6 p.m. I do this to myself because it's worth it. In spite of the
almost eight hour round trip, the students really get a lot out of it.
Coming from the reservation, most would never set foot in a museum if
the teachers didn't take them, and no other teachers here go to the art
museum. Many students want to go back each year. We have a docent tour
for an hour, then an hour to see the rest of the museum at our leisure.

The guards get a little nervous seeing unaccompanied teenagers walking
around in pairs or small groups, but the students know how to behave and
we've never had any incidents. I'm usually the one that sets off an
alarm from getting too close to the artwork!

There is a fantastic docent there that I always book for our visit; she
gave me her home phone number so I can call her directly, and she will
rearrange her schedule to accomodate us. She is very lively and
knowledgeable and somehow manages to get my very reserved students to
talk; they really like her a lot. Instead of making the art seem
intimidating, she makes the works accessible and comprehensible, leaving
the students wanting to see more. Admittedly, she is the exception; I
had tried several docents who became visibly nervous at the students'
quiet demeanor. When Sherry's not available she has recommended a couple
other docents who worked out well, also.

My only complaint with PAM is when there is a "blockbuster" show;
docent-led school tours are held on Mondays only, when the rest of the
museum is closed. We are given 50 minutes, then shoved out the door.
The students come away excited at the art, and frustrated because they
wanted to see more of the show, and the rest of the museum. I don't
know if there is a satisfactory solution for moving huge numbers of
students through these shows, although with my small groups, I wish
they'd let us stroll through to see the rest of the show. Once a
Sherry-recommended substitute docent, knowing we'd come from so far,
"sneaked" us past the exit and gave us another 45 minutes of the show.
That kind of accomodation brings us back each year, blockbuster or not.

San D, I'm sorry you've had such negative experiences, starting with
your school's limitations. I don't take a whole class, just the first
13 from any of my classes who get their permission slips in first. We
take a van, which doesn't require a bus driver. Although we've often
gone during the school week, we've been asked to try to arrange field
trips on Saturdays to cut down on requests for subs. However, you
certainly brought up some important points about museum accessibility
and user-friendliness. Museums that want to increase attendance should
be bending over backwards to make their institutions less
"institutional."

Maggie