Reflections on "Curated by Small Hands"

May 1, 2013

“If you’re in a museum... whisper hooray (hooray!), If you’re in a museum, for many awesome reasons... If you’re in a museum whisper hooray!”

The sound of four-year old children singing the Museum Manners song echoed in the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology this spring as they and their families visited the museum for an exhibit: "Curated by Small Hands".  This exhibit is a direct result of a partnership between the Museum and the Brown/Fox Point Early Childhood Education.  During my studies in the MA in the Public Humanities, I have focused on ways to provide learning opportunities for young children in public institutions and I began working with Haffenreffer Museum staff in the fall of 2011 to develop a program for early learners.  Our first partner in this project is the Brown/Fox Point Early Childhood Education Center, whose supportive and innovative teachers and staff encourage preschoolers to learn through play and interaction with peers, teachers, and places outside the classroom.

In the fall of 2012, with the assistance of Emily McCartan, a fellow MA candidate in the Public Humanities, and the guidance of Geralyn Ducady, Curator of Education and Programs at the Museum, the partnership evolved into a year-long series of  classroom enrichment and museum eduation sessions for all four Early Childhood classrooms.   Emily, Geralyn and I led in-class sessions where students began learning about the Museum, anthropology, and object handling. We brought artifacts from the education collection at the Museum for the students to touch and explore. These sessions culminated in the Curated by Small Hands exhibit, which was prepared by the four-year old classrooms at the school, the 'Redwoods' and 'Willows'. 

Students from the Willow classroom handling a toy truck from the collection at the Haffenreffer Museum. (Photo courtesy of the Haffenreffer Museum)Students from the Willow classroom handling a toy truck from the collection at the Haffenreffer Museum. (Photo courtesy of the Haffenreffer Museum)After garnering enthusiasm all fall, in the spring of 2013, the students in the Redwood and Willow Classrooms began visiting the Haffenreffer Museum. During their first visit, they grew familiar with the Museum and interacted with some objects from the collection within the museum setting.   Before the second visit to the Museum, the teachers brainstormed with the students to select a topic for their very own exhibit.  It should come as no surprise, the four-year old students decided they were interested in learning about the types of toys children use around the world. With the support of the Museum curators, we brought a large number of toys from the collection to the Museum for the group to choose from.  Once they had selected objects for the exhibit, the two classes continued to work on the exhibit text and interpretive materials for the exhibit. Some of the children’s labels were displayed beside the objects, while the additional labels, drawings, and responses by the students are featured on an iPad which is included in the exhibit.

The result was amazing. The exhibition reflected how four-year olds view and understand these objects. At the opening event, the young students appeared to take ownership over the exhibition and enjoyed showing their work to their families and friends.  For more information: curatedbysmallhands.weebly.com

Education interns, Alex Goodman (left) and Emily McCartan (right), standing with the final exhibit curated by students at the Brown/Fox Point Early Childhood Education Center (Photo courtesy of the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology)Education interns, Alex Goodman (left) and Emily McCartan (right), standing with the final exhibit curated by students at the Brown/Fox Point Early Childhood Education Center (Photo courtesy of the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology)It has been wonderful for me as a Public Humanities student, interested in fostering learning opportunities for young children in public institutions, to play this very role in the Willow and Redwood classroom and extend that classroom into the education programs at the Haffenreffer Museum.  

 

 

 

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Guest Blogger Alexandra Goodman will graduate with the class of 2013 Public Humanitists, MA in Public Humanities at Brown.  As a community position sponsored by the Center for Public Humanities, Alex was able to get real experience in the field of her interest via the Education Internship at the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology at Brown.

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