So that opening I talked about in my last entry?
This is it. A museum oriented specifically for children, hands-on. More of a coolness.
Overall, though, one thing which really struck me as a teacher were the many groups of students I saw in the various museums and historical sites we visited. While the behavior at liberty of various middle-school-aged kids wasn’t that different from the kids at my own school, what I did observe was a deliberate and detailed education in cultural and arts resources which is sorely lacking in much of our own system these days. Yeah, I got a bunch of this teaching, but I’m a product of the late Boom and was clearly on the college track. Plus I never did have access to art museums and major historical museums because, hey, Springfield and Eugene, Oregon, were somewhat lacking in those areas. It took the Freedom Train’s 1976 visit to Springfield for me to see many of the major American historical treasures, and I still haven’t seen a lot of those.
But I did get exposure to arts and culture through film and filmstrips.
Anyway. In the Petit Palais, I observed a group of kindergarten kids learning how to behave in a museum. My French isn’t that good, but nonetheless I could recognize what was going on through vocal tones, body language, and what I could pick up. The children were encouraged to sit down around a docent, who then explained that this is how you sit, this is how you listen, and then went on to talk about the art (Monet and Cezanne). It was the mirror image of an older group I’d seen the day before in the Cluny, a group of middle school-aged kids who sat on the floor around a docent explaining a particular aspect of medieval life (and I noticed texting, whispering, and other behavior I’d see in one of my student groups. Hormones are universal. But it was less and attention was more focused).
In Notre Dame, I observed one frazzled teacher pulling a group of somewhat hyper middle schoolers together to quietly scold them for behavior. Again, I didn’t pick up all the words but boy did I recognize both kid behavior and adult behavior.
Same for the Orsay and the Louvre.
Now it would be surprising NOT to see this sort of teaching going on in a city with the resources Paris has available. What I did find interesting was that a majority of the groups I observed were middle school aged. Whether that was simply a function of observation as a middle school teacher myself, or whether that represents a specific focus, I’m not certain. It does make a lot of sense to me because I do believe a lot of middle school learning would be improved by hands-on exposure to visual inputs, and trust me, there’s more than just art which can be learned from these visits to Parisian museums. There’s a significant degree of European history that can be learned. In the case of the Louvre, there’s exposure to antiquities from Greece, Egypt, and Rome (and those are just the pieces I saw). There’s hands-on, everyday exposure to architecture that I know I only got from pictures (Doric, Ionic and Corinthian for classical exposures).
Most priceless was the group of middle-to-high school kids I saw settling in for lunch at a bistro. I know I would have moved heaven and earth to have the same experience at that age.
I wonder how many other kids I know have that same secret thirst.