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Fourth Grade Finds Mystery and Meaning at the Art Muesum
By: Fourth Grade Teachers Taylor Berns and Amy McMullin
Can you imagine living in an art museum? Rossman fourth graders recently visited the St. Louis Art Museum trying to imagine just that.
This spring, the fourth graders have been reading From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. In this classic novel, two siblings decide to run away from home and hide in a magnificent, beautiful place - the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. In their quest to learn “everything about everything” in the museum, they find themselves amongst a mysterious statue that may be the work of Michelangelo. This sends the pair on an adventure to solve the mystery which results in an education about the Italian Renaissance, art history, and much more. As we read this book together with our students each year, we take our own educational adventure to explore these topics further.
This builds much anticipation for our field trip to the St. Louis Art Museum, where the students’ heads are spinning with information and ideas once they enter the doors. They are seeking out different sections of the museum that are mentioned in the book — the Egyptian wing, Arms & Armor, and Italian Renaissance, for example. They are looking for places to hide and wondering how the children in the book managed to stay inconspicuous on their journey. And they are learning to appreciate the beauty, meaning and skill involved in great works of art.
Through two visits to the museum, we participate in the “Arts in the Basic Curriculum” program, which engages students in close observation, critical thinking and creative ways to respond to works of art. The interactive and knowledgeable docents graciously walk our students around the museum and provide activities as they tour. Each student is given a special sketchbook to use during their visits. In some cases, they will sketch reactions to pieces of art or practice an art skill that is represented in a particular piece. Other times, they will write a story using pieces of art as inspiration for characters, settings, and plots. In addition, they get to explore the parts of the museum that are mentioned in the book so they can imagine what the characters were experiencing.
Overall, it is a powerful experience in understanding and appreciating art. For many of the fourth graders, it is their first time in the St. Louis Art Museum and they are amazed. As one student put it this year, “It’s like the building itself is a piece of art!” Whether it is their first time or one of many, there is always something new to explore and learn at the St. Louis Art Museum.