Hi and welcome back to Attentionology for K – 5 Teachers!
Hungry? Get ready to enjoy Still Life Masterpieces: A Visual Feast from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, (Massachusetts, US). Not just a feast for you; one that you can share with your students!
With technology as your teaching partner, your class can view online, for example, the work of a well-known twentieth-century American artist who made her home in the southwestern US – a flower with edible seeds, shown in my blog pic below.
Hosting our tour of a visual feast is Emily Kotecki, Museum Educator at the North Carolina (US) Museum of Art (NCMA) in Raleigh.
The Still Life Masterpieces exhibit is on loan from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
Emily, shown in my blog pic below, spent her early years in Los Angeles, California (US) where she lived until age ten.
She vividly remembers her experiences at Roscomare Road Elementary School and beyond.
Says Emily, “I can visualize my teachers’ faces in grades K – 12.”
Emily recalls one elementary school teacher in particular with a special attention-getting strategy. “I had a teacher named Mrs. Hahn in second grade; she had a garden outside our classroom. We worked in her flower garden as part of our curriculum and I remember how attention-getting it was to NOT be in the classroom to learn.”
“Mrs. Hahn,” Emily recalls, “used our garden as a setting for early science education. We learned about different flowers (snapdragon – Emily’s favorite!), the seasons, weather and what flowers need to grow.”
“We gained an appreciation of the natural world that is with me still,” says Emily, “and Mrs. Hahn introduced us to being responsible; we learned to care for something.”
To this day, Emily’s associates her memory of Mrs. Hahn’s class with gardening itself. Now she plants new seeds in her work as a museum educator – seeds of love for the amazing world of art, including still life masterpieces like the one shown in my blog pic below by a well-known Spanish painter.
Emily favors three key teaching tricks (you can use these, too) to make gallery experiences (online or in-person) memorable for students she leads on museum tours:
1) Make the experience personal and relevant – Emily invites students to look at the art and make connections to their own lives.
2) Let the learner control the learning – Emily asks open-ended questions about the art work on view and allows time – she waits for answers – so that kids have time to think. Encouraging thought with Qs like What do you notice? or What surprises you? levels the playing field. This is especially important when you work with students that have limited experience with the arts.
3) Offer choices – Emily finds that creating opportunities for students to come to their own conclusions as they view art encourages critical thinking. When we experience art there are no wrong answers because everyone interprets art personally.
Another attentionology trick that Emily practices – modeling open-mindedness. “I never know, from one group to another, exactly how kids will interact with me, the art and each other,” explains Emily. “At the beginning of each tour, I encourage exploration and questions,” she says. “Kids are so unfiltered; I learn from them all the time, and I take my experiences to the next group I guide.”
If you decide to guide your class through a visual feast of art by projecting exhibits on a Smartboard, showing posters of famous work, or visiting a nearby museum, you might want to begin with
an apple for the teacher (and class), if you can find a painting of fruit, like the one shown in my blog pic here by a well-known nineteenth- century French painter.
The beauty of visual feasts is their availability online and in-person in cities around the world.
NOTE: You can find all kinds of free educational resources online at museum sites, including ArtNC.org. Visit for arts integration lesson plans for grades K – 5 (also available for Grades 6 – 12).
At ArtsNC.org you can create your own Concept Map to share with other teachers. Emily and the NCMA staff are proud of the fact that ArtNC.org won an Honorable Mention for Education and Outreach from the American Alliance of Museums, based in Washington, DC.
When teachers introduce students to art they offer opportunities to span time and space by facilitating students’ interaction with art from diverse masters, eras, and places.
Using an age-appropriate approach, give your students (and yourself) the pleasure of looking at art in a close, unhurried, mindful way.
Studying still life paintings is an attentionology lesson itself! John W. Coffey, deputy director for art and curator of American and modern art at the NCMA, explains it this way: “What all still-life painters have in common is the need to pay close, personal attention to the stuff of this world. What’s painted is less important than how it is painted. These artists are primarily concerned with achieving a harmony of shape, color, and overall design.”
Harmony – sounds like music education to me and there may be a math lesson there as well. Juan Gris, a well-know Spanish artist, active in France from 1887 – 1927, was a student of math as well as an accomplished painter. His work is shown in my blog pic below.
Gris aspired to achieve order and harmony in his compositions.
Some of your students may aspire to be artists when they grow up. You don’t have to be an art teacher yourself (although you may be) to help children learn to appreciate and participate in the arts.
About those apples for the teacher…here’s an attentionology trick…invite students to bring in an apple for a class still life. Instruct volunteers to create a still life by setting the apples in a bowl on a piece of fabric atop a table. During free time, offer the option to be an artist and draw and color the class still life. Artists and the teacher get to eat the apples afterwards!
Remember, you don’t need to be a magician to work magic in instructional settings!
Talk with you again soon,
Barbara ♥ The Lovable Poet