This past weekend we took 15 preschoolers (and their grown-ups) to the Art Institute, and no one cried, no statues got knocked over, and everyone had an amazing time!
You may be thinking, “Why would we attempt this?”
Well, in my classroom we use the Project Approach to learning, and my class of 4-5 year olds were interested in Museums! There were days where we used every train track in the building and made a temporary Train Museum, and even days where we used real tools to build our own toys for a Toy Museum. But, the thing about the Project Approach (and any approach to learning), is it is so much more meaningful if you can give your students real-life experiences with the topics they are interested in. So, this meant we need to visit a real museum together in order to inform our Museum Project with research from a primary source. And, since we are lucky enough to live in a city where there are many museums to choose from we had another opportunity for an authentic learning experience; we had to VOTE! Each student got to put a rock with their name on it in a cup with the name of a museum on it, and after several days of tallying AND a run-off vote, The Art Institute was the winner! And while we waited for the day of our Museum Meet-Up to arrive we started curating our own art museum building sculptures out of recycled materials and clay, and even dabbled in paint making.
In preparation for our Museum Meet-Up, I sent out these tips, that if you’re feeling inspired to make your own trip, you can use too!
Tips for visiting the museum with your preschooler:
- Plan out your route ahead of time! Pick a few pieces or styles you want to see, and try to keep your visit under 2 hours.
- We put together a simple scavenger hunt based on our planned route with things like “A flower, a Mama and her Baby, a dragon” that helped everyone to keep moving through the exhibits
- Let them know ahead of time that a museum is a place where we look with our eyes and use our talking or whispering voices.
- Use talking points/questions like these to engage your child:
“How does this (painting/sculpture/drawing) make you feel?”
“How do you think the artist made this?”
“What do you think this might be titled?” and then read them the artist’s title
“What colors/shapes do you see?”
Try to recreate the sculpture/picture/drawing with your bodies.
Try to make up a story about the things you see in the artwork.
Make up voices for the people you may see in the portraits or pictures. Is it an up high voice or a down low voice? What might they be saying?
Remember: Behaving perfectly or exactly as expected in a space meant for adults is a big ask for our 3, 4, or 5 year olds, so do your best to meet you preschooler where they are at developmentally and make a it fun, enriching experience for all!
I have to admit, that when I woke up on the morning of our visit, I was nervous! But, afterwards I was so impressed with my students and felt so lucky to be surrounded by families that are engaged in their children’s learning, and are always willing to take a risk or go on an adventure with us at Bubbles Academy. Experiences like this give our children the gifts of confidence, curiosity and creativity, and not only am I excited to see how our Museum Project continues to develop over the rest of the school year, I’m genuinely excited for these amazing tiny humans to continue to ask questions of and contribute to the world around them.
Samantha Perry is the Director of Bubbles Academy’s Arts-Integrated Preschool Program. She is also the recipient of the Harris Foundation’s Scholarship for Excellence in Leadership and received her Master of Science in Child Development with a specialization in Administration at Erikson Institute. The Harris Excellence Scholarships are awarded annually to a select number of students with excellent academic credentials and a demonstrated commitment to the field of early childhood.
Sam is grateful for the opportunity to use both her theatrical expertise, and broad knowledge of needs of young children at Bubbles Academy’s arts-integrated preschool program. As an educator, Sam strives to inspire confidence, independence, curiosity and creativity in each of her students every day.