|Two and a half-year-old Kara Compton solves a wood puzzle in the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museums new Preschool Gallery. Conference participants looked to gain what Annemarie Palincsar, professor of education, called an appreciation and understanding of what it means to engage in object-oriented inquiry.|
Conference participant Jack Hagan, director of the Center for Human Growth and Development, established a collaboration with the Hands-On Museum when it was just opening its doors during the U.N. International Year of the Child in 1979.
Hagan oversaw the contribution of $30,000 to the Hands-On Museum to help build its first exhibits.
Whats unusual about this conference, Hagan said, is that its bringing university-based and museum-based people together to plan. The two different professional communities are beginning to work together in some new and different ways.
It impresses me that the people here [at the conference] are interested in childrens learning across the lifespan, from preschoolers to adolescents.
In 1979 people were just beginning to think it would be great to create hands-on experiences.
The conference attracted more than 50 participants, representing a range of disciplines and organizations.
When asked about the participation of the Matthaei Botanical Gardens, David Michener, assistant curator, said, Our key phrase is people, plants and culture. Were trying to tie this to different kinds of community education. The Gardens is continually offering special interactive programs for individuals and families, he noted. Out of Africa, a program coming to the Gardens in February, is a prime example, Michener said. This years celebration will focus on the theme of quilt-making.
Lauren Talalay, associate curator of the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology and adjunct associate professor of classical studies, shared ways the Kelsey is focusing on object-centered learning by describing kits her museum sends out to schools. The Kelsey has 15 kits with reproductions of archaeological artifacts and activities designed to prepare students for a visit to the Museum. One activity involves turning eviserated Barbie dolls into mummies. The Museum also is beginning a program for children in Mott Hospital who cant visit the Museum. They are learning about archeology through learning how to write their names in hieroglyphics.
Ruth Slavin, curator for education at the Museum of Art, shared a different perspective. Its interesting to think of what we have in common [as a museum], she said, and whats different. Were working to preserve a cultural heritage. Art objects are made objects. Some person made a series of choices in the act of creation. Art museums excel in presenting values and social issues, representations of people and of images. They are very rich in terms of value development of young people.
Slavin described a burial figure that was buried in a tomb in preparation for another life. You can actually see the fingerprints of the person who worked in the clay. For Slavin, art museums can offer another dimension to object-oriented learning. She quoted the Hands-On Museum mission of turning minds on as appropriate for the Museum of Art.
Annemarie Palincsar, associate dean and professor of education, began Saturdays session with a mini-presentation she usually does with children. This morning, she told conference participants, were going to explore a new book together. The end of the conference found participants wanting to share more with each other. Plans are in the works for the conferences rich conversations to be turned into co-written articles by university and museum educators.