My family had the opportunity to visit Monet and the Impressionists at the Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney on the weekend and my 4 year old daughter’s enthusiasm to learn (without this ever being discussed) was both a joy and instructive to the educator within.
I always get an audio guide – when available at galleries and museums – and before long Lucy wanted to know what it was. We ended up going back out of the exhibit to get her one of the junior ones (certainly not designed for a 4 y.o) and I am so glad we took the trouble to do this.
She enthusiastically sought out the audio icons and listened patiently to every minute of recorded information asking the occasional question – what’s a beret? What I found fascinating was how she had to grapple with the number pad to type in the code for each painting but soon was self-sufficient. There was more numeracy in a trip to the art gallery then I’d ever have imagined.
After we had exhausted the possibilities of each different phase of Monet (and his colleagues) artistic development I asked Lucy which was her favourite(s). She instantly said, ‘the one with the girl reading’ and we had to go back to the start of the exhibition to see August Toulmouche’s, “The Reading Lesson”.
Thinking about her choice later in the day it was evident that of all the topics and subjects explored the most familiar to Lucy’s life was not a cathedral in Rouen or a haystack or a pond but the image of a girl reading. My bespectacled little angel has had her nose in a book since…well, always.
As we wandered around the free exhibits my observations of Lucy and thoughts about constructivist notions of learning were interrupted by a squeal from Sarah who was babbling something about The Upside Down Show. She had spotted that massive painting by Jean Baptiste Édouard Detaille that had featured in the show. The next 20 minutes was spent with Kate showing them where the episode was filmed and spotting other paintings. We watched the ‘Art Gallery’ episode again on the weekend and the girls had a different, deeper understanding after the day, one would imagine.
Kids (and adults too) build on what they know and their brains connect experiences, if they have the opportunity to choose, discuss and enjoy. Learning needs to integrated, holistic and fun. It needs to be relevant and real. Numeracy, culture, art, tv shows, creativity and technology can be seamlessly part of the one experience.
When we returned home, the girls painted en plein air for two hours. Maybe all of us (educators) would do well to remember Monet’s advice:
“I would advise young artists . . . to paint as they can, as long as they can, without being afraid of painting badly . . . ”
The SMH has a good video introduction to the exhibition by the curator that is brief and worth looking at if you are interested.
Nice post, with some insightful observations. That same weekend, I took my own daughter to the Nicholson Museum at Sydney Uni… she has had a thing about Egypt since she was in Year 2, and had never gotten tired of learning more about it. When I told her that the Uni museum had a real live mummy (no wait, a real dead mummy!) she was excited to go see it. We spent an hour or so browsing through the exhibit, looking not just at Egypt, but ancient Rome and Greece as well.
Great to see kids wanting to learn more to satisfy their own passions, and especially when they are your own kids!
Thanks for sharing your story!
Thanks for your thoughts, Chris. I have a powerful memory of my own first trip to a museum (at about Lucy’s age) and the impact of the Tyrannosaurus Rex exhibit on my imagination. The first book I ever bought from the kindergarten book orders was ‘They Turned to Stone’ and I wanted to be an archaeologist for many years after.
All too true, guys! I’m never sure whether my uncertainty of DET COGs units lies in rose-coloured memories of my school years or because they really are superficial studies. What I remember fondly from school about museums and related ‘projects’ on Ancient Egypt, dinosaurs, Ancient Rome, the Explorers, etc etc … the motivation, the keenness to find out more, the excitement .. just like your girls were obviously feeling. COGs just seems to cut out so much individual choice by teachers and spread the topic thinly over so many KLAs .. but maybe I’m not being fair?