Observations by Rose:
Imagine a three day excursion where you visit a Chinese village home, tour an American Federalist house, and see bejeweled eggs once owned by a Russian tsar. That’s exactly what we did during the Teacher Institute at the Peabody Essex Museum. This summer twenty-three teachers and I were immersed in art. Each day we were treated to eye candy that made our mouths water and our minds crave more.
The morning of our first session I felt like a kid on the first day of school. As a library media teacher, my art experience was limited. I was not trained in the arts and knew very little art history. My daughter Teresa was also attending the workshop, and on the drive to Salem she reassured me that I would be just fine. She was right. The PEM staff was so welcoming that I felt right at home.
On prior visits to museums, I would glance at a painting, read the caption and move on to the next piece. PEM taught me how to examine, reflect and converse with a work of art. Using Allan Crite’s painting School’s Out from the current exhibition In Conversation, Modern African American Art and Corinne Okada’s Rock, Paper, Scissors in the Japanese gallery as backdrops, they modeled open-ended questions that guided me to see art for the first time. I soon realized the key to unlocking the stories art tells is the questions you ask, not always the answers you get.
The most important lesson I learned was to include art in what and how I teach. The questioning techniques we used in the galleries will now be used in my library and computer classes. Works of art will be incorporated in my poetry writing pods and linked with books so that students can better understand what they read. Thanks, PEM, for a wonderful three days.
Observations by Teresa:
Interesting. Invigorating. Inspiring. These three words only begin to describe the Teacher Institute at the Peabody Essex Museum. Each day was packed with activities that made us think, talk and do art. We sketched Soundsuits (Inspired by artist Nick Cave), made of recycled objects, solved the problem of a mystery painter and drew with felt and ice! During a break, I even got to peek into the East India Marine Hall where my wedding reception was held – always a special treat whenever I visit PEM.
I especially enjoyed using Toshio Shibata’s landscape photographs as writing prompts and matching quotes to artwork in the modern African American exhibition. These writing-art connections and the brainstorming among museum staff and the participants provided me with great ideas to use in my classes.
In September, when my colleagues ask what I did this summer, I’ll share everything I learned at the institute. I’ll especially let them in on what I learned about the initiative to promote science, technology, engineering, art and math — STEAM. Interweaving the disciplines to include art will bring out the scientist, engineer, and artist in ourselves and in our students. I can’t wait to begin.
Rose Forina is a library media teacher at Arthur T. Cummings School in Winthrop, Massachusetts. Her daughter, Teresa Dankner is a visual arts teacher at Winthrop Middle School. They both participated in PEM’s Summer Teacher Institute.