A child born today will see more images in a lifetime than the number of stars in the universe. But how do children learn the skills that will help them respond to the world around them with "thinking"rather than "passive"eyes? The Kinder Foundation Gallery exhibition Teach Me to See presents works of art created by students from Presbyterian School and from Small Steps Nurturing Center. Both schools participated in Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
Storytime Tours, a program of tours for children in pre-kindergarten to 2nd grade. The students participated in six one-hour guided tours of the museum designed to foster close and careful looking at works of art and to support classroom learning.
Describing the goals of the Storytime Tours program, Dr. Victoria Ramirez, W.T. and Louise J. Moran Education Director at the MFAH, said, "Our Storytime Tours program exemplifies the very best in bringing together early childhood education and the art museum. Bringing children to the museum at a young age and sharing the world of art with them using children´s books and activities is a comfortable and relevant way to introduce them to the joys of learning and discovery. This program also prepares young students for the future as they grow as thinking individuals and develop into thoughtful students who need to learn the skills of forming their own ideas through experience."
The MFAH Storytime Tours program is based on the premise that for children as young as 4 years old, visiting the art museum supports their social and behavioral development. Furthermore, learning about and engaging with art helps develop the cognitive skills that allow children to relate the concepts they are learning in the classroom to the world outside of their school. As such, the program combines the reading of children´s literature in front of a work of art with discussion and other activities designed to help students understand and make sense of what they see. Activities include articulating what they see, using their senses to experience art, and imagining unseen details in a work of art followed by discussion and questions. Back at school, students create their own works of art inspired by their museum visits. For Teach Me to See, students were guided by art specialists Jacqueline Chaltain and Kaeli Holland.
Chaltain brought 2nd grade students from Presbyterian School to the museum to participate in the Storytime Tours program. The students each selected one of the paintings they had seen and created a work of art in response. Half of the student works are on view at the MFAH, and the other half are displayed in the administrative offices of Presbyterian School, located at 10 Oakdale Street, one block from the museum.
"My students did a marvelous job analyzing the characteristics of each artist´s style, even pointing out that Maurice Prendergast´s work shows crowds of people but John Singer Sargent´s work depicts small groups or just one or two people," said Chaltain. "Controlling watercolor so that the colors did not bleed was a big challenge, but my students were determined to learn. I hope this project is only the beginning of their lifelong engagement with the arts."
Holland brought her pre-K and kindergarten students from Small Steps Nurturing Center to the MFAH to participate in the Storytime Tours program. The students then created their own works of art using water-based paints and pre-cut shapes of clouds and boats.
"It´s really exciting to see the inventiveness of students even within the narrow parameters of an assignment," said Holland. "One student decided his extra boat would become a sail ´blowing in the wind.´ Another student used scraps placed under her boat as fish swimming under water. The paper becomes their playground; it´s like they´re swimming inside their own little water scene. For the younger students, this is a great way to begin experiencing mixed media and to apply the use of contrast not only with color, but with textures as well."
The exhibition Teach Me to See (July 3, 2010January 9, 2011) showcases 21 works of art made by students at Presbyterian School and 29 works of art made by students from Small Steps Nurturing Center. The Kinder Foundation Gallery is located at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, in the Caroline Wiess Law Building, 1001 Bissonnet at Main (free parking across the street).