Canajoharie CSD students participate in unique museum learning experience

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Learning isn’t limited to classrooms in the Canajoharie Central School District.

Through a partnership with both the Arkell Museum in Canajoharie and the State University of New York College at Oneonta’s Cooperstown Graduate Program (CGP) in Museum Studies, Canajoharie pre-kindergarteners, first graders and eighth graders participated in the college’s Applied Museum Education course throughout November.

“Integration of different learning venues brings content to life. It’s great for our students to grapple and talk about grade-level content in different situations,” said East Hill Elementary School Principal Stacy Ward, who is an alumna of the Oneonta program. Ward facilitated the participation of the Canajoharie students.

“It’s also a rich experience for the graduate students — many are interested in becoming museum educators and working with us helped them gain experience they can draw upon,” she added.

The college’s course is intended to give supervised practical experience to second-year Oneonta master’s program students who wish to pursue a career in museum education.

Overall, about a dozen graduate students spent several days meeting with East Hill and middle school teachers, observing classes, and developing programs for the Arkell Museum based on the district’s curriculum and teacher suggestions.

Canajoharie students then traveled to the Arkell Museum and participated in those hands-on targeted museum learning programs.

Each program combined traditional classroom learning with the museum’s late 19th and early 20th-century American paintings by Winslow Homer, Thomas Benton, William M. Chase, Childe Hassam, John Singer Sargent, Albert Bierstadt, and Gilbert Stuart that are part of the “Arkell’s Inspiration: Art for the People” exhibit. The current, “Masterworks & Masterworks on Paper,” exhibit that features works by Cassatt, Homer, O’Keeffe, Grandma Moses, Whistler, and others was also part of the programs.

Pre-K students looked specifically at “water” and “hair” in artwork and practiced their use of the letters W and H. First graders focused on the concept of “community” through a read-aloud session, drawing and looking at different communities in artwork. Eighth graders created social media profiles and Twitter updates for the subjects of portraits on display. No profile was complete without a “profile photo” drawn by the students based on the portraits.

“It was exciting to see the different students coming together in this collaboration. The graduate students learned some of the needs and challenges schools face, our students were able to experience the museum in a new and different way,” said Ward.

The Oneonta students, led by course instructor Katie Boardman, also created a Sensory Friendly Day for the museum, which is an opportunity for kids with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and sensory processing differences to explore the museum.

“We had one family where the student attended the museum with his class. Then a few days later, he was able to experience the museum again when his family attended the family event on the weekend,” Ward said. “On that day, when he saw his tour guide from the school experience, he gave him a big hug. Museums have so much to offer our students and this partnership has sparked a conversation on how we can partner with the museum more often.”