by Rachel Levinson
“The idea of being a teacher is that you’ve gotta pass it on. You learn something. You develop some insights. Your experience can be transmitted and that is the nature of civilization.”
– Milton Glaser
Let me start off by saying that I have a passion for education, art, and technology that built me into a strong enough candidate to score the opportunity to be an education intern this summer. The museum drew me in with their San Francisco vibe of forming an open creative community for visitors and staff alike. I am a local student majoring in Art History with a specific interest in museum educational programming. I think that technology has a way of engaging visitors on a higher level than normal, even if said visitors aren’t as twitter-savvy as the high school tour group in the next gallery. It is hard to know where to start in educational programming, but the CCM internship program gives us the Intro 101 course.
Basically, we are tasked with the duty of creating workshops for visiting groups each week. A workshop is normally held in our Birthday Party room and is an activity that can easily be done within 30 minutes by someone five-years-old and under. Give them a coloring book, you say? Sure we could do that. But how is that activity engaging and challenging enough to push their creative ideas into a new realm? See, this is the programming that I vastly underestimated when I took this internship on.
I have never had to even think about writing a lesson plan before, especially with material and time limits. It is intimidating to tackle these workshops without any previous experience. I applied here in order to get a better grasp on these issues and I want to share some of the main obstacles we face weekly during workshop planning.
One of my favorite workshops (workshop being a group activities station for visiting summer campers 1st grade and under) would have to be the Animal Mix-up. The basic idea is to do a modified Exquisite Corpse by having the kids draw a full animal upon a template, then cut it up into three pieces, and lastly, tape three pieces together to make a new mixed-up animal. Our goal was to help kids focus on fully creating a single creature and then use the mix-up as a way to physically see the benefits of collaboration (even if the collaboration is not direct).
Even though every visitor had a blast drawing and mixing up their animals, there ended up being four distinct problems to our workshop:
- Trouble viewing project through to the end: Many times the visitors would not want to cut their animal up show it to others. They still wanted to make a mixed up creature, but did not enjoy the idea of trusting their group members to provide an awesome animal section. This could be attributed to age, but also has ties to the fact that our workshop has more parameters than normal. Throughout the weeks I’ve learned that the less steps in a workshop, the better.
- Overwhelmed/Intimidated: We thought that we had planned enough for this problem by doing “ten second animals” three times before introducing the project. Ten second animals is, for example, when you tell them to draw a Buffalo and then they only have ten seconds to achieve a doodle that looks like a Buffalo. It was helpful to show by example rather than sitting around waiting for them to become comfortable with an idea.
- Comprehension: It wasn’t too complicated of an idea (from our perspective) since the worksheets we handed out had predesignated thirds with guidelines on where to fit your animal. Wrong again! Drawing an animals body to fit certain points was a hard concept to grasp. Overall I learned, the more freedom with a project, the better.
- Organization from Staff: This one is completely on our side (as were the previous three). We had figured it would be easy to switch the heads, middles, and ends but not when the kids decided to switch all at once! This was more of a “Logistics with Children 101” moment that we learned from each time a new group came in.
I realize that some of this blog’s readers are educators and parents, so all of these revelations come to no surprise to you. I, on the other hand, have almost zero experience with educating children and have found each day spent at the CCM as an enormous learning experience. There have been learning moments in educational programming, interacting with visitors, logistics, and professionalism that I would be hard pressed to find in any other type of institution. I almost wish it would be mandatory for business majors to spend a summer doing this kind of work in the same way that I should spend a summer learning accounting as an art history major.
I am truly starting to appreciate not only the amount of work that the education staff does every day but also the work of every teacher/professor I’ve had before. Basically, my point is that teaching anyone something takes a lot of effort that goes beyond the specific time you spend with them. As with everything, we get better when we learn from our mistakes and I cannot wait to see how my experience here will shape my projects in the future!