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Here Come the Withers Wildcats!

February 4, 2010

If you were to wander through the African galleries today or tomorrow, you might encounter a studious group of 5th graders and their teachers from Harry C. Withers elementary.  Clustered around works of art, the students will be sketching and talking about what they see, think, and feel in response to the art.  When looking at the Stool supported by kneeling female figure from the Luba peoples of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the discussion may range in topic from the geometry and patterns they see to ideas about beauty and the significant role of women in the Luba culture to the king who sat on this stool.

Math teacher Debbie Hurley will likely be leading this discussion.  With a team of teachers, Debbie and the Withers 5th grade students have visited the DMA every year for the last 15 years!   I’ve seen her teach with the Stool many times in the galleries and learned much from her passionate approach to teaching and her ability to help students make connections between the art and their lives.   In 1995, Debbie was among a group of Dallas ISD teachers and DMA education staff who collaborated to create a teacher-led curriculum called “African Traditions” for the Museum’s Art of Looking school partnership program.  The Art of Looking partnership program is 17 years old this year.  A program for 4th – 6th grade students and teachers, the Art of Looking champions interdisciplinary approaches to works of art, guides students through deep looking experiences with art that help build creative and critical thinking skills, and fosters a connection between Dallas ISD schools and their hometown Museum.

The Art of Looking partnership program, more so the “African Traditions” experience, is so embedded in the Withers school culture that it defines what it means to be a 5th grader at Withers, and what it means to be a parent of a 5th grader (who come often as chaperones on Museum visits).

This week the Withers Wildcats make their 15th annual visit to the Museum and it will be an extra special one.  Following their Friday session in the galleries looking at art, students will join African drummer Leo Hassan for a hands-on experience with African drums.   I’ll be sure to post pictures late Friday – so come back for a look!

Nicole Stutzman
Director of Learning Partnerships with Schools and the Community

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