Friday, July 2, 2010


Peter Blume's "The Rock," 1944

Today we led our third and final student tour of the week. The tour went absolutely swimmingly! To our surprise, only ten students showed up rather than the twenty we had expected, so Natalie and I went ahead and led our “nature-themed” tour through the museum.

So, we usually try to organize tours by age, but since the group was so small to begin with we took everyone on the tour together. The mix of second through sixth graders made a very successful tour-group dynamic! The older students answered some of the more conceptual questions, while the younger students would jump right into the work and describe to the group what they saw. This technique not only helped conversation flow smoothly, but it also introduced the younger students to some more interesting and complex topics. Everything went especially well when we discussed Peter Blume’s The Rock. With this piece, older students made observations about the subject matter—comments include: “this talks about how we ruin nature,” “it represents the Chicago fire,” and “it shows how war destroys the earth.” Meanwhile, Natalie and I used this opportunity to have younger students identify different elements of nature in the piece. Even the chaperones joined in and described Blume’s technique—noticing how smoke from the fire in the painting subtly became part of the clouds above it.

Also pretty exciting: we had enough time to discuss all six of our pieces we had prepared! Natalie and I kept an eye on the clock and swiftly moved from one piece to the next. Students moved well through the museum, followed all the rules, and listened. More importantly, they were respectful, participative and, for the most part, genuinely interested in learning about art. Maybe this tour seemed super great because the day before was pretty much chaos, but Natalie and I now have a model for how we want our tours to run in the future!

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