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Intern Project: Artworks for Me & My World

February 21, 2012
Last month, Jessica and I introduced you to Me & My World, a program specifically designed for first grade students. There are two versions of the program, one created for tours in the museum and another developed for classroom visits. Although Jessica and I will be doing a lot of collaborating, she will be primarily focusing on the docent-led tour, while I will be working on the Go van Gogh classroom experience.
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Our first step in the Me & My World revision process was to select new works of art for each program. Go van Gogh is a sixty-minute program that is broken up into two equal parts of looking at works of art and then making works of art. With half an hour to look closely and discuss the art, there is just enough time to have quality experiences with four artworks. With thousands to choose from within the collection, picking just four is no easy task. When teaching in the classroom, we bring reproductions of artworks to be projected onto a screen; as a result, visibility can become an issue. For example, paintings that are really dark usually won’t project well, and sculptures with a lot of detail or incising can be washed out and difficult to see. Besides keeping all of these basic logistical challenges in mind, it was also really important to find works specifically ideal for engaging first-graders.

We started by seeking the advice of volunteers, docents, and education staff for their insights from past experiences. This resulted in a lot of great ideas, almost too many! To further narrow down our selections, we developed two main criteria to focus on: themes and teaching opportunities. In an effort to make the programs well-rounded with a variety of diverse topics, we categorized the artworks by themes, such as family or sports. These themes are meant to be easy for first-graders to relate to, so they can develop personal connections with the works. Then, by using the DISD curriculum for first grade, we created a general list of possible teaching opportunities that could be addressed through looking at art. Finally, we chose works that clearly matched some of those teaching goals and also fit into one of the themes.

With the thoughtful suggestions of our department, volunteers, and docents, as well as the criteria Jessica and I created, I was able to narrow down my search to seven final works of art to begin testing for Go van Gogh. I provided two examples below.

Apple Harvest, Camille Pissarro, 1888, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, Munger Fund

Theme: Family/Teamwork

Teaching Moments

  • Look at brushstrokes/dots of paint
  • Count the people
  • Name the colors
  • Discuss the weather/seasons

Personal Connections

  • Teamwork – helping family or working with other students at school
  • Fruit/food
  • Outdoor activities

Wild Cattle of South Texas: Ancestors of the Longhorns, Tom Lea, 1945-1946, oil on canvas covered masonite, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Life Magazine

Theme: Natural World/Texas

Teaching Moments

  • Discuss and count longhorns – native to Texas
  • Look at landscape – cactus, stream, plush green trees and grass
  • Talk about weather/seasons

Personal Connections

  • Texas
  • Animals
  • Outdoors

In preparation for testing these artworks with first-graders, I will need to develop guidelines for conversation and activities that incorporate various learning styles. If you have had any memorable experiences with activities or conversation starters related to these themes, please share them in the comments section below!

Hannah Burney
McDermott Education Intern for Teaching Programs and Partnerships

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