This month I’m working with a 4th grade teacher to present a series of live-zoom classes for her online students exploring STEM @ the Museum, three Mondays in a row. This has been a fantastic experience for me, in that I’m getting to work directly with a teacher to identify the content that works best for her class and meets her standards-based learning objectives. Working with teachers always helps me to hone my message and develop materials with more rigger.
“I loved your class! It was so much fun to see math in patterns and art!”
Happy, 4th grade teacher, Boise Online School
We started with math as our entry point into the topic because, contrary to what some may think, math is all over the place in art and museums. It’s actually the easiest to find and engage with when exploring any museum space.
I’ve mentioned before in my blog posts, that my father is a visual artist. (Check out his YouTube videos HERE) He has always played a central role in my understanding of how to interpret and understand art. One of the key dogmas he repeats is that painting or drawing or sculpting are ultimately crafts that eventually become art after mastering a strict set of guidelines over years of practice. Like Bob Ross says, “with enough practice anyone can be an artist.” Composition, lights & darks and use of line are skills that artists use to express themselves, share their observations of the world around them and tell stories. So, in Math @ the Museum, we look especially closely at composition and the mathematical principles that guide good art, or the kind of art you see at the museum.
You can purchase the full recording of Math @ the Museum class, geared towards 3rd, 4th and 5th learners, at Teachers Pay Teachers by clicking on the image below:
In Math @ the Museum, the first in the STEM @ the Museum series, we
Learn and reflect on the “Rule of Thirds” and find examples of it being used in Impressionistic masterpieces at the Art Institute of Chicago to draw the eye of the observer to particular areas of the image
As with all my classes, I always like to share a challenge! In Math @ the Museum, we learn that the basic definition of Mathematics is simply: the Study of Numbers, Shapes and Patterns. Patterns are everywhere! Go to a museum near you, or look around your home or neighborhood. Where do you see the patterns we learned about ? If Math is the study of numbers, shapes & patterns, does that mean math is EVERYWHERE?!
Today, in the second class with my special 4th graders, Science @ the Museum, we visited the Louvre in Paris and explored their virtual gallery tours. It was so much fun taking them through the galleries and pointing out all the new questions they can ask on their virtual and in person visits to more deeply engage with the art and artifacts by just using the lens of Math they learned last week!
So often we visit museums incredulous that we have the prior knowledge or passion for art, to enjoy our visit. But if we are able to apply lenses like math & patterns and turn the visit into a game of observation and inquiry, that incredulity wears off and we might end up leaving with new inspiration and even a little more knowledge than when we arrived.
This week I’m preparing for another Varsity Tutors Large format course, on Monday, February 22, at 7pm EST/ 5pm MST: “Making Your Family’s Museum Visit Magical.” In this 2nd of 2 presentations I’ll virtually visit three museums and utilize their online platforms to demonstrate some tools and activities to make museum going fun for the whole family.
Register TODAY by clicking on the image below, and join me next Monday at the Museum!
While preparing for this class, I looked at multiple platforms from museums all over the world. My research wasn’t comprehensive or scientific in any way. I mainly found platforms that served my needs regarding my teaching and learning objectives.
However, I do want to share with you all how 5 different museums have created an online space for learning that provide student, teacher, and family audiences on creative and relatively easy to use platforms.
#1: MetKids: I love this space. I have to keep myself for over-using this platform in my classes. Met Kids has created a world inside the Metropolitan Museum of Art that provides exactly the kind of entry points students, teachers and families need to build an appreciation and love of museums and all they offer. My favorite thing to do is to break the time machine! I’m such a rebel.
#2: Tate Kids: I just recently started playing with this platform and I’m in love with the video: JACQUELINE WILSON’S MAGICAL TOUR OF TATE BRITAIN. There are so many wonderful videos and inspirations on this platform that I can see students, teachers and parents spending hours clicking through and learning.
#3: LACMA: I was able to recently attend a webinar hosted by Museum Educators of Southern California where we learned about the many creative ways museums have been reacting to the recent shut downs. In addition to the equally impressive and thoughtful work presented by the Hammer Museum, the Pacific Asia Museum and the Autry, I was especially impressed with the interactive and 3-D access to the collection for teachers that LACMA’s online courses provide. The fact that they are free an accessible to everyone is the cherry on top! This is something homeschooling moms, pod-leaders and scout leaders can use too. I find myself going there often for personal and professional inspiration.
#4: Skirball Cultural Center: I am in love with the Skirball’s educational programming overall, but I was especially excited to see the new Noah’s Ark Videos that the amazing storytellers on staff created for our younger audiences! These are magical re-tellings of cultural flood stories from around the world. If these performances don’t inspire you to build a better world then, I’m at a loss.
#5: Smithsonian, National Museum of Natural History : Out of all the walk through virtual tours I’ve tried out, this one wins for me. It’s easy enough to follow the map, find what you’re actually looking for and also explore. They also offer amazing narrated virtual tours and access to past exhibitions! My 4th grader and I went here to help dig deeper into his fossil lessons and he was even better than I was navigating the maps. On the topic of STEM, I have to also mention NASA. Oh my goodness. This resource is amazing. I mean, who doesn’t want to experience STEM lessons from Space!?
This year, while disheartening for so many of us with the shut-downs and lack of in-person access to museums, has also opened the door to some incredible innovation in education. I’m really excited to see where this takes us and how this new frontier changes and improves our approaches to learning and access for the next generation!
Later this afternoon I’m going to be presenting a “star” course for Varsity Tutors, an international online, tutoring service. My course tonight is a FREE, large-format course that allows me to share my Mondays @ the Museum product to a much broader audience than I could on my own. I really appreciate this platform that Varsity Tutors offers to museums, companies and experts from around the world to share their messages in combination with a platform that offers free, online access to people of all walks of life to learn a variety of different subjects. I did two courses in the fall with Discovery Center of Idaho and our King Tut: Treasures of the Tomb exhibition and we reached around 8,000 viewers world-wide with each course.
Now, Mondays @ the Museum doesn’t have nearly the draw of King Tut, and no one outside my circle really knows who I am so, like people who are nominated for the Oscars often say, “It’s an honor just to be involved.” My fingers are crossed for at least 100 viewers.
What does Varsity Tutors get out of this? They get to see what their following is interested in learning about, they get to possibly reach a new audience that will sign up for their paid classes and a cut of the profit for my small courses that they host in the coming months. What do I get? I get free marketing and alignment with a national brand, exposure and a chance for a profit share with my small courses in the coming months.
So, if you’re reading this before 5pm MST, make sure to register and join me!
Having set the stage, I’m giving my blog readers the inside scoop on what I’m presenting. You get the modified-for-blog script for tonight’s presentation and a peek into how I plan to answer the question: “Who are Museums For?”
Who are Museums For?!
Before we can really answer that question, we need to have a better understanding of:
What a museum IS and
Where all these museums come from.
Maybe if we understand What a museum is, and how museums got here, we’ll have a better idea of who museums are for!
Here’s a hint, wink, wink, (They’re for EVERYONE!)
So, what IS a museum!?
Usually I like to ask you first what you think a museum is, but today, we’re going to try something different. We’re going to start with a definition and then break it apart a little and then do an activity to make sure we all really get it..
Here we go.
Museums are spaces that tell stories about people, places and things using objects and/or images.
Now sometimes those stories are harder to figure out than others and sometimes the objects and images are more complex than others, but this definition pretty much gets to the heart of what a museum is.
So first, a space is just that. Space. It can be a big space or a little space. We’re all in a space right now. I’m in my basement. Where are you? Are you in your bedroom? Or kitchen? Or living room? Or maybe a classroom or maybe you’re outside on your porch!
We all know what stories are, right? An account of an event or many events with a beginning middle and an end.
Objects are just things, or to be specific, things that aren’t (usually) alive. Like a coffee mug, or a couch or a sculpture or a bike. (I say not usually alive because spaces like aquariums and zoos are telling stories too, but they show living things, not just objects.)
Images are pictures or paintings or drawings that someone has drawn or painted, or pictures someone has taken with a camera.
Will you all do a little exercise with me?
Wherever you are, look around. Look at the walls and bookcases and all around you. Are there images or pictures and objects in your room? Are there images or objects that mean something to you? Like maybe they remind you of a trip you once took or of a time you spent with a friend or maybe it’s something that you made or drew and you have it up on your wall to remind you that you did that and it makes you proud or happy.
Have you ever gone into someones house and felt that you knew them better after seeing the objects or images that they put out on display? If I were to look around your space, would the objects and images tell me a story or many stories about you or your family and what you value?
I’m going to take you on a quick tour of where I am to hopefully help a little more with this concept. I’m in my basement. The wall behind me is exposed limestone. I live in an historic area of town where the foundations of the buildings were built with local limestone. This exposed wall helps to tell the 105 year history of my house and my neighborhood and the natural minerals that are found in my area. Up on my ceiling, there’s a patch, where my water leaked through from when my son accidentally flooded the kitchen after leaving the sink clogged and the water running. On the opposite wall from me are 4 small painted, square canvases with each of my family members’ names on them and a date. That reminds us of when we had a family painting day and made hand and feet prints together. The clipboards below with papyrus pictures in them remind us of when my children and I made Eyptian cartouch’s on papyrus when we were learning about King Tut. There is a story behind everything in this room and I could go on, just like I’m sure you could tell me a story about every object or image in your room too.
So, based on this definition my basement or your room could be considered a museum! Right?! They are spaces that tell stories about people, places and things using objects and images!
Just like you can learn a little bit about me by looking at my room, Museums give us safe spaces to help us better understand who we are as humans by displaying art and objects that reflect our many values and tell our many stories! Think of that!? I think that’s pretty cool.
Now that we have a pretty clear understanding of WHAT a museum is, let’s see how much we know about where museums came from! I think you’ll be surprised with some of the answers.
Where was the first museum? Ancient Persia, Ancient Greece, or Paris?
How many of you guessed Ancient Persia, now known as modern day Iraq?
The first known display of objects or artifacts (which is how museums refer to objects) for viewing was prepared by a Persian Princess! Her name was Princess Ennigaldi, and she lived 2,500 years ago!
Her museum collection displayed artifacts or objects from as far back as 2,500 years before she was alive! What?! 2,500 plus 2,500 equals 5,000 years before us! So, as far as we know, museums, or spaces that tell stories using images and objects, may have been around for upwards of 5,000 years.
The objects in her museum, which we now refer to as the very first known museum, were from many different time periods and places. They were neatly organized the way museums work now and she even had labels to describe the objects written in 3 different languages!
How do we know this? Because of a special kind of scientist called an Archaeologist and a particular Archaeologist named Leonard Woolley who uncovered her ancient museum 100 years ago.
So, museums have been around for at least 2,500 years AND the earliest we’ve found was curated by a princess!! Woah! Let’s see what else we know about museums
Why do you think museums were made in the first place?
To please the Ancient Greek Muses referring to the word: Ancient Greek (Mouseion), which describes a place or temple dedicated to the Muses
To share stories of the world & inspire curiosity and wonder
To collect, preserve and display valuable treasures from around the world
All of the above!
Our English word, MUSEUM comes from the Greek word, Museon which was a place in Ancient Greece in which people displayed things of value to celebrate or worship the Muses. Muses were the goddesses of inspiration. There were 9 of them. They worked kind of like patron saints in Catholicism. Instead of musicians praying for inspiration to St. Cecilia, ancient Greeks would have given an offering to Euterpe, the muse of music. There were muses for: epic poetry, history, love poetry, music, tragedy, sacred poetry, dance, comedy and astronomy. Sounds a lot like the kinds of subjects’ you’d find at a museum!
In case you’re interested in giving offerings to the muses for a particular project you have in mind, here’s a quick list:
Calliope was the muse of epic poetry.
Clio was the muse of history.
Erato was the muse of love poetry.
Euterpe was the muse of music.
Melpomene was the muse of tragedy.
Polyhymnia was the muse of sacred poetry.
Terpsichore was the muse of dance.
Thalia was the muse of comedy.
Urania was the muse of astronomy.
Have you ever seen the movie, The Greatest Showman? Well, it’s a story, based in truth, (with lots of great music), all about PT Barnum. PT Barnum was a visionary entertainer and the founder of the PT Barnum Circus. But before it was a circus it was a museum!
He and others like him, hoped to expose people to the many curious and beautiful things in the world, highlight human creativity and innovation, to celebrate what is special and different and inspire curiosity and wonder; very important parts of all museums!
He was probably inspired more by the Wunderkamers in Germany that displayed oddities and scientific discoveries rather than by the Greek Museons
And, just like you display your favorite objects and images in your homes, museums are places that preserve and share stories and things of value for others to learn from! My friend, who works at the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana, California said it really well when she told me that :
“We have museums to enrich communities and create a safe and shared social space where people can come together. Museums encourage our sense of wonder and desire to leave the world better than we find it.”
Unfortunately, it’s difficult for us to experience museums these days. No one can really travel, but SOON AND VERY SOON we will all be able to! Not only travel around the world or our state, but we will soon be able to go do more in our own cities and towns. And there are museums we can visit EVERYWHERE! It’s so exciting to think about getting out and about and interacting with the world around us again!
What’s amazing about the time in which we live is that NOW, Museums are not only EVERYWHERE in person, We can also visit them ONLINE too! Virtual or Online museum collections are incredible because
They give all of us the opportunity to experience museums from all over the world that most of us who don’t have the funds to travel the way we want to, wouldn’t otherwise get to experience and
they can help us become more familiar with what we will encounter in our in-person visits, when the opportunity does come when we can visit a museum which will then make our in-person visits that much more exciting.
You can sample a little bit of what a virtual museum experience can be by going to visit an example of an Encyclopedic Museum: This means that they have collections of objects and images from multiple time periods and from all around the world.
Join me again in 2 weeks and we’ll visit other virtual collections that look very different from the Met, and I’ll give you some super cool tricks and games to keep your virtual and in-person museum visits exciting for everyone
So,after all of this, what’s the answer?
Who do you think Museums are For?
Are they for Families? Grown ups? Are they for people with all colors of skin? Are they for people who live in big houses and small houses or penthouses and apartments? Are they for people who like girls and for people who like boys? Are they for people who walk and people who roll? Are they for people who see with their ears or people who hear with their eyes?
Museums tell the stories of people and the world we live in!
So, do you live on earth and are you a person? Then, Museums are for YOU!
The last almost 6 months have been an incredible journey for Mondays @ the Museum!
The plan for the Mondays @ the Museum side-gig experiment has always been a temporary one with the hope that the product(s) would have “legs” enough to provide adequate short-term funds in addition to opportunity to grow and learn and expand my networks professionally. I intended that once our Monday furloughs were over, I would be able to drop the Monday classes and return to work at 100%. My goal is still to return back to work at 100% when the furlough is lifted, but the plan has altered slightly, as all plans tend to do. This furlough looks like it will last at least through the school year at this point and supplemental funds are still much needed.
The initial idea was to offer live-virtual classes with students where we explored and learned together via online museum collections. The idea was to fill hour-long slots with 5 -10 students throughout my Mondays, as one would offer piano or voice or violin lessons, to supplement a 20% loss of income. (This was then followed by my husband’s job loss, so the stakes got extra high to start pulling in cash for food.)
Then, when I only got 2 registrations out of the 20 I had hoped for, I reconsidered my plan. I was out about $500 in marketing costs and was looking at an income of a little over $200. So, I began experimenting with e-learning videos. Instead of just offering the live classes, I would also record a version of each class that teachers could present to their classes, or parents could watch with their children, without being held to a specific date or time. I learned about screen-catching video software, reached out to YouTubers to request use of their videos in my own, and dipped my toes into the broader world of virtual education. With a new Teachers Pay Teachers account in hand, I now had a sales platform from which I could offer my product.
Again, I was out more in marketing costs and only bringing in one or two sales a month via Teachers Pay Teachers (a whopping $35 per paycheck). Thankfully my taxes will show a loss this year which will make April less stressful, but it wasn’t helping the bottom line.
While I pondered tabling the whole idea, my place of work was approached by Varsity Tutors. With the skills I had developed and the lessons I had already learned in “phase 1” of Mondays @ the Museum, I was able to take advantage of an opportunity for my museum to reach up to double the numbers with our exhibition than we would via in-person visitors. We worked together with them to produce two courses about King Tut, which was an incredible boost to confidence levels in addition to a great source of professional development in what works in e-learning. Now with even more skills my team at the museum is now considering a re-invention of our future virtual offerings and build on this new platform for education.
For an un-known, like myself, starting any kind of business experiment is bound to be extremely difficult. Now, 6 months into my LLC, and with the partnership of a reputable, international, e-learning platform, I feel re-invigorated to give this another full go and see how far this can take me.
So, with that, I re-built the “Live-Virtual Classes” page on my website and plan to continue this experiment, continuing to use any setbacks as stepping stones to reach a level of success that provides me joy, and hopefully the supplemental income I set out to make in the first place.
Thank you everyone for sticking with me on this journey! I appreciate your support and hope you can join me at our next two Varsity Tutors classes this February and spread the word to families and friends to register for our upcoming live-zoom courses starting in March.
I grew up with a visual artist and an amateur art historian. That meant that I was required to visit art galleries and museums in every town we visited and on every family vacation. While I appreciated most visits, I was also a normal child and teen and incredibly bored most of the time. Especially once I’d made my way through the space, and I was tired and hungry and there was nowhere to sit. My dad on the other hand, would spend hours moving close to each painting then stepping back and then moving in closer and tilting his head and then finally, moving on to the next one to repeat the same dance. I think most of us, when we visit museums of all kinds, fall into the category of appreciative, but easily bored once the charm wears off. In my case, I could always ask my dad what he was looking at and he was able to use his artistic vocabulary and experience to explain to me what was either interesting or not interesting or why he liked the painting or didn’t like the painting. I had a built-in docent, but rarely used him in that capacity, and more often than not, would pull on his arm to go. My mom was just as wary of leaving the galleries and would be my go-to for questions about the artist or the historic context that surrounded the painting to contrast my dad’s technical conversation.
This February, Mondays @ the Museum is excited to offer two free, live courses with Varsity Tutors, prepping students and parents to travel and explore in a world that we hope will begin to re-open soon!
Dates and times will be announced soon to add to your family time calendar!
Because of my upbringing, and interests, I also eventually built a great love of museums. My love and appreciation for museums grew even more once I started working in the museum field.
Just because I love museums and have worked in museums for years doesn’t mean I still don’t get mind-numbingly bored sometimes.
(I also studied and performed opera for years and can hardly bare to sit through a whole opera. I’m much more likely to leave at intermission, especially if the aria I was looking forward to hearing has already been sung, and listening to the rest at home. Lucia de Lammermoor might be one of the few I’ll sit through, because I have to make it to the end to experience the “Mad Scene” or maybe I’ll sit through Don Giovanni, to observe him being dragged into hell. )
I think I’m with many when I say, that along with my memories of how cool it was to see certain cool objects or paintings at a museum, I also carry with me memories of sore feet, a sore back, exhaustion, snappiness, hunger and overwhelming sensory overload.
So, how are we supposed to experience museums meaningfully?
When we’re on vacation, we often only have 3 days to collect our London experience, so we gorge on all the museums, theatre’s and cathedral’s that we can, to say we’ve done it. One more check off the bucket list! On to Paris, Rome and Budapest to cram in more “Instagrammable” experiences!
I think I can confidently say that all museum professionals would agree that what I described above is the absolute worst way to experience museums and cultural spaces. The anxious, sensory overload that comes with feeling that we need to stuff our brains with all a museum has to give, in a single visit is unmanageable and only leaves us with a bad aftertaste.
So, again, what will leave us with the warm-fuzzy feeling we all intend with each museum visit?
These are my 5 suggestions for how to visit a museum, given the amazing resources we now have at the tips of our fingers in the 21st Century.
Be kind to yourself:
Start with food & make sure you’re hydrated
Visit the bathroom before you start your journey
If you can, check your purse, backpack or bag or wear something with pockets and leave any bags in the hotel room, in the car or at home.
Take a breath, and use the time at the museum to escape from your everyday cares
Set realistic expectations:
Choose two or three things you really want to see and focus on seeing just those things first.
Take a break & go outside if you can & Give your brain a break to rest and process before coming back
Take your time:
If you can come back another day, do it so that your brain can take a break
If you live nearby, become a member, and go as many times as you need throughout the year
Utilize the resources that museum staff have created for you:
Many museums, especially the big ones, have interactive and/or virtual collections online, including virtual gallery tours, that give you full access to their collections from home. These are amazing resources that can help you plot out your route before you get to the space OR parse out what you are actually interested in seeing.
These collections also often include videos, expert insight and way more access to information than you can get on a crowded day at the museum and can help make better sense of what you may have seen
(Use Mondays @ the Museum videos for tips on fun ways to interact with any virtual or in-person collection from ways to “read art” or find mathematical patterns in paintings or “Ask Questions like an Archaeologist” to learn about artifactsand more)
Website & online resources:
Even smaller museums have helpful resources like virtual maps, audio tours, and educational resource guides that will help you plan your visits. Make sure you go to a museum’s website before heading out to check on special events, unanticipated closures, fees, group discounts, guided tours, special requirements and more.
Gallery & Family guides
All museums have some sort of printed or virtual guide when you arrive, that provides a map and often a suggested route to take to see all the cool stuff. Many times museums will also have a guide made specifically for youth or families with children. These are fun for adults too and often include scavenger hunts, special activities and more!
Take advantage of staff and docents!
Most museums either have volunteer or paid gallery educators, docents or tour guides available to help guide you through the space! These are amazing people who can both answer questions and spark your curiosity about the collections through their passion and knowledge. These people are ready and willing to help, (but also understand when a visit to the museum can sometimes be a quiet meditation time for many of us.)
In our February, Varsity Tutor classes we will be exploring where museums came from and why we have them, what kinds of museums there are along with fun tricks and tools to make both virtual and in-person museums visits engaging and educational for all ages.
These, of course, are my suggestions. (I don’t even follow them most of the time.) But always remember that museums have as many ways to enjoy as there are people to enjoy them. Just make sure to enter with a sense of curiosity and a willingness to go on a journey you may not have expected. Museums provide space to meditate, breathe, learn, observe, question and converse. Each visit will and should be different, but hopefully, with every visit we will learn a little more about ourselves and how we can make this world a better place through our expression of art, craft, science and more.
Since I first viewed it, I’ve really appreciated the advice in this video from by Museum Hack’s founder, Nick Gray. I leave you today with this fun link to amplify the topic of how to visit museums! Don’t forget to follow Mondays @ Museums on YouTube, Facebook, Linked-in, Instagram & follow this blog at our website: museum-mondays.com.
In the next few months I’ll be expanding my content creation for Mondays @ the Museums to provide new live and recorded videos on a number of topics related to museums and the world of informal education. While putting together my budget projections for the upcoming calendar year, I had to ask myself “why” again. Why am I continuing on this path with my Mondays @ the Museum project? When the world goes back to a semblance of “normal” and we are able to travel and visit museums in person again, where will my business model fit in? Where does the long term sustainability come from? Eventually I will have to work on Mondays again for my full-time museum job and I won’t have the same time or income gap to fill as I did when this began. So, what is the spark that keeps this idea alive for me as we move towards the future?
As I ponder these questions along with others, I remember that this project isn’t really new. This idea of providing access to practical and fun ways to make learning and especially learning at a museum engaging and long lasting is an old idea of mine and this isn’t the first time I’ve taken action on it.
In 2006 I made the mistake of opening my mouth in a meeting and sharing an idea of creating a teacher professional development course at the museum I had just started working at. Instead of laughing it off, my supervisor took me seriously and gave me the green light to move forward with the idea. 5 years later and after multiple pilot versions and failed attempts, I had developed a successful, multi-stranded, year long course for K-12 teachers that used our museum and it’s collection as an anchor-work for learning how to integrate music, theater, dance and visual arts into the public school classroom. Not only had the idea “grown legs” as my director once told me, it was garnering positive feedback from the teacher-students and our museum colleagues from other museums.
Tonight, before sitting down to consider what to write for this week’s blog, I felt compelled to read through the “Forward” that I included in my annual program report in 2010. I also read a wonderfully kind article that had been written reviewing the program and its conceptual and administrative development. Reading these documents reminded me that this isn’t my first rodeo. These projects take determination, time, risk, collaboration, tears, flexibility, adaptation, a clear vision and support along with so much more.
As I look back to look forward, I start with the concluding sentence of an article written by my former MESC colleague, Cynthia Querio, for the California Association of Museums about my old program:
“‘Teaching Our World through the Arts’ proves that the successful contemporary teacher program seeks to go the distance, recognizing that the museum’s mission is met not only within its physical confines but in the classroom of every teacher who is exposed to the museum and who walks away with new methods to teach the arts.”
And I finish by sharing my words and vision from 10 years in the past. I don’t really see that this has changed. Mondays @ the Museum is for the teachers as much as it is for the students and visa versa. I’ve clearly found the niche I feel comfortable repeating.
2009-2010 Teaching Our World Through the Arts Final Report “Forward”:
I began development of Teaching Our World Through the Arts based on a personal dream to help general studies educators create an educational space that connects and intertwines all subjects, through the looking glass of the Arts. I hoped to open new paths for teachers to instruct their students, using the arts as a lens, to learn on their own, to think for themselves, to find, to search, to question and to create an opinion in which they believe and can defend with confidence.
I approached Teaching Our World Through the Arts believing that Music is Science at work, Dance is Math in action, Theatre is History & Literature as expressed physically, Visual art is all subjects combined. Science is math and Visual Art and History; Math is Music and History. How can we separate what we experience as a whole in our lives every day? I hoped that I could begin to expand teachers’ perspectives so that we can have schools where a Science class consists of studying Physics through Dance, sound waves and quantum theories through Music and Scientific methodology through History and Math and Theatre and Visual Art. Each class the students attend is separate but part of the whole. The goal of education is not to graduate drones that have memorized facts and theories but to create humans who live and understand and experience and search and find and question to the fullest and still cannot tap the crust of our earth, its history, it’s environment and its many complexities.
I looked at integrated arts education as a chemistry problem. How do we combine the arts atom with the science atom so that it combines to create a “scieartence”? How do we combine the electrons and protons of the arts to the electrons and protons of math to create “math-art?”
In Teaching Our World Through the Arts we explored multiple paths into the world of arts integration using various pedagogical methods, theories and philosophies. Some of the methodologies that we presented were clearer than others and each teacher took away what connected with them personally. As in every learning process at no point in this course was a definite answer reached regarding the best practice of arts integration, however the emphasis lay in the exploration of multiple theories, inquiry and personal reflection. This course’s intention was not to create a philosophy on which arts education policy could be developed but to create a safe space for teachers to learn as students, to think for themselves, to find new ideas, to search where they hadn’t looked before, to question each other and to create a form of arts integration that worked for their classrooms, which they are passionate about, can defend and implement with confidence.
Mondays @ the Museum has made it 5 months from inception and 4 months from incorporation! When I first started Mondays @ the Museum, it was in response to a need for supplemental income and a realization that I had a unique (and possibly profitable) skill set that others might actually benefit from. My skill set is unique in it’s type, not necessarily in it’s quality. There are thousands of Museum Educators out there that are much better educators than I am and have dedicated their lives to developing museum educational theory and practices that museums around the world have adopted to reach audiences far and wide. What is unique is the idea of Museum Education as an actual ‘skill’ or as a skill that can be produced and shared outside of a particular institution for the benefit of audiences far and wide.
My theory of why this is true in my case, is that I have mentally equated my skill as a trained musician to my skill as a trained museum educator. I have placed the act of education, particularly museum or informal education into the realm of performance or maybe more specifically, performance art; a realm that I am far more competent in than education in the realm of academia. What I came to realize is that this difference in my approach to museum education is unique amongst my colleagues. (Though I also know, for a fact, that I am very much NOT the only one) This uniqueness has more often than not, caused me feelings of inadequacy and a constant feeling of imposter syndrome, even as I continued to find myself in positions of leadership. I had to shift my perspective of my unique approach to the field, in which I have been working for so many years, to one of competence and inspiration towards growth and progress rather than cowering incompetence and motivation fueled by defensiveness and fear of being discovered a fraud. The balance is that I am fully aware and accepting of my lack of academic expertise in much of what I teach and I have no problem reaching out, citing and celebrating those experts for their research and insight. In fact, I rely heavily on my relationships with these experts to maintain my own continuing education and share quality material to those I influence.
With that initial understanding, I produced my first sellable product, “Tour the Met” a 6-part exploration of the Metropolitan Museum’s, free #metkids site presented via interactive e-learning videos that utilize multiple entry points for learning, from Visual Art to STEM to Performing Arts to Social Studies. These classes were created mainly for homeschooling parents or classroom teachers to utilize as supplemental instruction, and for me to practice and experiment with my new idea and video editing skills. These are still available for purchase on my Teachers Pay Teachers website! Each sale from my store provides me with 80% revenue and 20% of each sale from my store goes back to Teachers Pay Teachers to continue providing millions of Teachers nation-wide with access to affordable classroom instructional resources and additional sources of income.
Make sure to check out and subscribe to Mondays @ the Museum’s new You Tube channel! Video-only access is available by direct purchase HERE.
Having learned a lot in the last 5 months, and continued to be fueled by a mission to inspire a life-long love of learning of the human condition by utilizing museums and similar informal-learning institutions as a tool for deeper understanding, I am embarking on a new series in 2021, “Traveling the world @ the museum” and presenting several free, live, large-format courses and multiple, for-purchase, intimate, small-group, Mondays @ the Museum classes, in partnership with my new best friends at Varsity Tutors. (Keep your eyes open for more announcements and registration information in January, and clear your Mondays through May for learning.)
Thank you to those who continue to follow me on my entrepreneurial journey! I value your support and appreciate that my ideas are finding a home with others. Please spread the word about Mondays @ the Museum and keep learning and growing!
Recently I was introduced to a marketing professional who specializes in developing LMS or Learning Management Systems. For those that are unfamiliar with the term (as I was),
“A learning management system is a software application for the administration, documentation, tracking, reporting, automation and delivery of educational courses, training programs, or learning and development programs. The learning management system concept emerged directly from e-Learning.”
We were discussing my program/product and after I expanded past my basic “elevator speech,” waxing poetic on my long term goals for Mondays @ the Museum, she summarized my product in a very different way than I had expected. “Oh, I see. You’re an interesting person and your selling a product that will help others be interesting too.” Well,…yes, I guess so. It’s not often I’m stumped in a conversation, and this was one of those rare moments. I had not thought of it that way at all.
While pondering her comment later, back in my home office, I was reminded of a video I used to use religiously with teenage students that I mentored as part of various arts or museum career development programs at my past institutions. It’s a presentation to teachers, given in 2008, on key 21st Century skills students need to develop, given by Randy Nelson, the former Dean of Pixar University. The presentation is titled, “Learning and Working in the Collaborative Age.” You can watch it HERE on Edutopia to get the full presentation. However, in light of this post, there is a particular part about becoming an “Interested” vs. “Interesting” person that always stuck out to me.
Although the LMS expert had referred to me as “Interesting,” I think she meant “Interested.” As Randy says in his presentation, “…interesting…[is]easy to get. Interested is tough. That’s a real skill…” Anyone can be interesting. I could be interesting with my fashion or my hair style or the way I speak or even my choice in tattoos or piercings. Interested means much more. I think she mean interested, because to enjoy learning, you must be interested. I am interested. I’m interested in finding out how people of all ages and backgrounds can also enjoy learning and find interest in all sorts of learning. I’m interested in Archaeology even though that’s not my specialty or even close to my field of expertise. I’m fascinated in how we know what we know about our human past. I’m interested in all different types of art museums because I’m interested in all the many ways humans communicate emotion and stories and experience through various forms of expression. I’m interested in all kinds of music and voices because I’m interested in why and how different voices and sound combinations sound the way they do and make me feel the way I do when I hear them. I’m interested in Science and Technology and Engineering and Math because I’m interested in how everything around me works.
And yes, I’m interested in sharing my interest and passion and hope that others will also become interested in expanding what they understand about the world. From my experience, museums are fantastic tools and resources for this type of activity.
I am NOT an Archaeologist. BUT, I have learned enough from their research and hard work to want to think (and especially ask questions like them)! Today, I’m taking a bit of a break from Mondays @ the Museum specific content to polish and rehearse for a “live” online tour of the Discovery Center of Idaho’s exhibition, King Tut: Treasures of the Tomb in partnership with Varsity Tutors, this Wednesday, November 18 at 5pm MST/ 7pmEST.
This week the state of Idaho stepped back into phase 2 of our re-opening plan in response to rising COVID-19 cases. As our museum has to cut back our in-person access to our exhibition, I am thrilled that we get to share our space virtually with a national audience!
As of this morning, over 5,000, nation-wide, have registered, and it’s growing! wow! No pressure!
Here’s a snippet from the Varsity Tutor class site for a little taste:
What can we learn about history by asking questions? Join the Discovery Center of Idaho on an expedition through time and their King Tut: Treasures of the Tomb exhibition. We’ll explore the stories we can uncover just by looking closely at and asking questions about the objects and materials left behind in King Tut’s tomb.
(I guess, I’m not straying too far from the original Mondays@ the Museum course through the Met! Class 3, we explored the same topic. Funny enough, my daughter’s 3rd grade teacher is using the course with her class, and when I got home from rehearsal at the museum, my daughter greeted me with, “Mommy! You were my teacher again today! We learned about Archaeologists and a carving with a human face and wings.” Learn more HERE. )
Make sure to click HERE to register for Wednesday’s FREE Varsity Tutor Class and next week, I’ll get back to Mondays @ the Museum, but for now…I’ve got to rehearse!
STEM @ the Museum is the next iteration of the Mondays @ the Museum product development experiment. Similar to Frankenstein’s monster, this video takes and modifies parts from Session 4 of the Tour the Met course: “STEM at the Museum.” Hopefully, different from that poor monster, these re-used clips and re-written script and class flow show a more refined approach to introducing children (and teachers) to an elegant intersection of the Arts and Sciences by way of the museum as a platform.
So as not to repeat the same blog that I wrote to explore the previous STEM at the Museum live class. I’ll try to keep this short and share in an entirely different direction.
3 Ways I’m like Dr. Frankenstein
Dr. Frankenstein was driven to utilize his passion and talents to try and create life out of a sense of loss. I am driven too by a sense of loss, to a point. This project is a project of passion informed by my talents & experience, but only so much as I was forced to find a passion to fill a loss of income when I was in dire need of that income and focused on a talent and a certain set of experiences that seemed easier to pull from in my current setting and with the tools at hand.
Dr. Frankenstein collected an assortment of random and untested tools to create a make-shift lab, in a secluded, damp workspace and machine with which to create his monster. I have also assembled quite an assortment of new tools with which to create my monster and continue to build my machine with tools such as: Elegant Teleprompter App, a bendy phone clip to attach the teleprompter to my computer, an assortment of (old fashioned, found in the basement) clip on lights to provide proper video lighting (and to hide the dark circles under my eyes), my live-class is recorded in my basement near a front loading washer that needs some mold -clean up, and I just downloaded a new video editing software to combine my different limb-like clips.
Dr. Frankenstein was somewhat of an outlier amongst his fellow medical students. While I wouldn’t say I’m really an outlier, I AM the only one of my peers (save maybe one that I can think of) that has chosen to explore the monetization of museum education outside of the constraints of a particular museum or institution’s infrastructure.
3 Ways I’m not like Dr. Frankenstein
I am not trying to create life, nor seeking to destroy that which I have created because I’ve made it with such abandon that I forgot it might need some good TLC to keep growing.