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Krannert Art Museum – Week at the Museum
Krannert Art Museum had much success last year with its latest education initiative, KAM–WAM (Krannert Art Museum – Week at the Museum). In this program, students from a few Champaign and Urbana elementary schools had the unique opportunity to attend school at the museum for an entire week. During this time, students came to feel “at home” in the museum as they moved throughout the galleries to their classes. The arts-integrated curriculum covered all subjects and was inspired by the works on display. The curriculum was developed in partnership between KAM, the schoolteachers, and teacher collaborators from the Center for Education in Small Urban Communities, which is part of the College of Education. Each KAM–WAM week ended with a reception during which the students guided their families through the museum, describing the art on display and the projects they completed.
During its first year of existence, KAM–WAM welcomed eight classes from three schools. Wiley Elementary School in Urbana piloted the program in Fall 2011, and Robeson and South Side schools in Champaign quickly signed on for Spring 2012. The program is expanding quickly and the Fall 2012 semester is already completely filled with five weeks of KAM–WAM (11 classes). Wiley, Robeson, and South Side were eager to get on the schedule to repeat the program and Garden Hills Elementary School in Champaign is joining them. KAM expects to have up to five more weeks in the Spring 2013 semester as conversations continue with other teachers and administrators.
Before arriving at the museum, the students read the book Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett. In the story, a Johannes Vermeer painting is stolen as it travels from the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. to the Art Institute of Chicago. A few students from the Laboratory School at the University of Chicago get involved and solve the mystery. The book helps prepare the students for their museum adventure and gets them thinking about the questions “What is art?” and “Who am I?” These questions form the basis for all KAM–WAM lessons. As exhibitions change, so does the KAM–WAM curriculum, but there are a few lessons of which both students and teachers seem to be particularly fond. During KAM–WAM, students create their own art mysteries by photographing artworks in the museum, writing clues, and using deductive reasoning. Students also learn about light and optics in their camera obscura lessons. A camera obscura is an optical device that was a precursor to photography and consists of a darkened space that allows light to enter through a small hole; inside the space, an image of the scene outside the darkened space appears upside down and backwards. Another popular part of the curriculum has been screen-printing t-shirts. Inspired by the Pop artists, students pick an adjective that best describes themselves, prepare the screens, and print on t-shirts. By the end of the week their answers to the questions “What is art?” and “Who am I?” are more detailed, thoughtful, and inspired.
Both teachers and students leave KAM–WAM energized. The program encourages art, music, and classroom teachers to collaborate and challenges them to develop art-infused, hands-on lessons. Time and again, students have commented that KAM–WAM has been the best week of school they have ever experienced. Some have mentioned that they had so much fun that they did not realize they were learning. And some students have even admitted that they thought the program was going to be boring, but turned out to be fantastic.
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