What’s In A Name?

I was recently shopping at a clothing store in a nearby town, hoping to stock up on professional pieces for my upcoming entrance into the “working” world. I approached the sales counter with a particularly fabulous pair of patterned pants and was pleasantly surprised when I learned that they have an educator/student discount. The employee and I got into a conversation and she was shocked to hear that I was a museum studies student and not a teacher. This got me thinking… A) Am I going to lose my discount in a year?! B) What is the real definition of an “educator”? In today’s world we often assume that an educator is a traditional classroom teacher, but I would like to think that my desire to go into informal education as a museum professional also puts me into the category of educator. Obviously, there are differences between what a school teacher and a museum teacher do, but aren’t the hopes the same? To provide safe spaces for students where children of all ages can learn, explore, play, and imagine? To spark creativity? To support vibrancy? To nourish diversity?

This week, for my Applied Museum Education course, my classmates and I did observations in the local elementary, junior high, or high school. I was placed at Cooperstown Central School, which holds grades K-6. The goal of the trip was to look at the similarities and differences between traditional classrooms and museums as classrooms. It also was a great way to talk to teachers about the challenges they face, learn more about common core and state standards in the classroom, and interact with students from the community. I spent most of the day in 4th, 5th, and 6th grade art classes and got to participate in a brief jump rope lesson during 3rd grade gym class! Ultimately, the similarities between educators of all kinds came through and it became clear to me that collaboration between schools and museums starts with relationships between staff. Some of the teachers didn’t even know what the Cooperstown Graduate Program was! Developing partnerships with schools is not only beneficial to teachers and museum staff – it can mean the world to students. Learning occurs inside and outside of the classroom and it’s up to educators of all kinds to continue exploring ways to connect the two.

Here are a few photos from Art Class…

Confession – if I had known I was coming to Art Class, I might have worn something different! Maybe those patterned pants…

Today we were learning about “masking”. Step One – tape out “trees” onto paper

Step Two: use chalk pastels to create the forest background. Be careful to pay attention to complementary colors when smearing!

Once the tape is removed, this will be the finished product of birch trees in a forest. Note the art standards being met are clearly visible to students and teacher during the duration of the assignment. This is a new all-school policy.

To finish up the day, fourth graders worked on their very own “Modigliani” self portraits. Elongation of form and modern art were among the topics of conversation – I can’t wait to see how they turn out!






About catebay

Informal educator working in the world of art. Interests in public programming and community advocacy. Loves learning about people, collecting blue mason jars, and consuming Swedish fish.
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