SEA CLIFF SCHOOL AND NASSAU COUNTY MUSEUM PARTNER IN ART
February 4, 2015 -- Sea Cliff Elementary third graders did not have to go too far to actually experience the art, history and culture of China as they began their unit of study of the world's most populous nation and oldest civilization. Working in collaboration with the Nassau County Museum of Art in Roslyn Harbor through its Art Partners program, the third grade teachers and museum education staff acted as docents, leading the young students through the museum's current exhibit - China:Then and Now, an exploration of three millennia of Chinese art - each through a different medium.
Students not only viewed the pieces, but also experienced them, pausing for a time to sketch 1500 year old Buddhist sculptures, or to write poetry in response to scenes painted by contemporary artist Liu Dan.
Sea Cliff teacher Sharon Shields was first introduced to the Art Partners program through her children's school many years ago, and after a very successful single visit to the museum last year, she along with third grade teachers Beth Lawatsch and Andrea Schultz, and Art Teacher Lisa Giurlanda, decided to enroll in the Art Partners Program this year. By June, the third grade classes will have made three trips to the museum. Their first visit was this past fall for the exhibit Still Life - 1970s Photorealism.
The Art Partners program goes well beyond a single day's field trip, fully integrating the museum experience with the school's curriculum and classroom instruction.
"This is an amazing program," said Ms. Shields. "The museum educators have been so accommodating and want to connect the experience to curriculum and standards."
Prior to each visit, teachers receive a two hour professional development workshop at the museum taught be museum educators. Laura Lynch, the Museum's Education Director explained that the workshops are a two-way street. "The frequent contact we have with classroom teachers keeps us invigorated and current on what teachers are looking for."
As for the classroom teachers, not only do the sessions provide an opportunity to learn about the exhibit, but also about pre- and post-visit activities for which they are provided with slide shows of the works. This allows the teachers to both introduce students to the art in advance of the trip, and to better connect to the museum experience with follow up classroom activities.
Through the pre-trip activities, Ms. Lynch explained, "students are empowered with prior knowledge," making the visit so much more meaningful. That empowerment was clearly evident as the eight and nine year olds' hands shot up to respond to the docents' questions in each of the galleries the students visited.
Ms. Lynch said that the Art Partners program not only provides to young students the "opportunity for full immersion into the culture of a museum," but also "a hands on sensory interactive experience." This particular exhibit, she said, fits perfectly into the third grade social studies curriculum which focuses on World Communities. "You can learn so much about a country and culture through the arts that they made," she said.
Ms Shields said that "the exhibit was a great way to launch our unit on China. I was so excited by the student responses. It also was great to see how their engagement has grown from our last visit."
The experience is intended to instill an appreciation of art and culture that will continue for a lifetime, and part of that effort is to connect to the child's home life - but not with the typical paper and pencil assignment. Each third grader is provided with museum passes and is encouraged to return to the exhibit with his or her family, and to play the role of docent, guiding parents and siblings, in this case, through three millennia of Chinese art.
The Sea Cliff third grade will return once again to the museum this spring for the exhibit, “Out of the Vault: 25 Years of Collecting.” an exhibition highlighting works from the Museum's permanent collection that have never, or rarely, been exhibited.
In addition to Sea Cliff, ten other schools and districts across Nassau County participate in Art Partners.
The Sea Cliff Parent Community Association (PCA) provided funding for the third grade's participation in the Art Partners program, and has raised funds for all grades to be used towards cultural field trips for this and next school year.
RETURN TO WEEKLY
A HOMECOMING FOR CHINESE ART AT THE NASSAU COUNTY MUSEUM (November 26, 2014)