Authors: Jessica Sack and Elizabeth Williams, Yale University Art Gallery
For almost three years, the Yale University Art Gallery and All Our Kin have collaborated to offer professional development sessions to family child care providers. We at the Gallery are so grateful for this partnership, which has led not only to new friendships and relationships in New Haven but has catalyzed new projects related to bilingual education and early childhood education.
Experimentation has marked much of our work with All Our Kin. We have tried a number of different models for these workshops over the years, including multiple times, days of the week, meal options, and languages. We have also experimented a great deal with the focus of the sessions: topics have ranged from storytelling to special exhibitions to child development. Sessions take place at the Gallery and are led by both Gallery educators as well as by Wurtele Gallery Teachers, Yale graduate students whom the Gallery employs as museum educators. The Wurtele Gallery teachers who have been involved—Ana Maria Gomez Lopez, Tess Korobkin, Mary Kim, Tony Coleman, and Emmanuel Lachaud—continually reflect on the enormous impact their experience with All Our Kin has had on their teaching practice and lives in New Haven. For instance, Tess noted that something wonderful happens when people share a meal and are able to talk about the experience of looking at art together. We have kept this in mind as we have planned our sessions.
As Ana Maria began to coordinate sessions, she also invited providers to return with their families, friends, and students. This resulted in a summer filled with tours in Spanish for families and friends. Ana Maria helped us think about how we could work with Spanish-speaking groups more easily and helped us translate our self-guided family materials into Spanish. These include our Architecture Guide, Looking Closely with Felt and Yarn, and Exploring Art Together. At the same time, the museum created a task force to look at the needs of our Spanish-speaking audience. This task force, comprised of members of our business office, visitor services, and education, met with participants in the All Our Kin workshops to better understand their perspective. As a result of the meetings and the work the task force did, the museum now has all family materials, maps, and general museum information in English and Spanish.
This past year we have been working to structure the workshops to focus on developmental skills of young children. We did a session on fine motor skills that modeled activities for providers to do in their own work. We looked at objects in the special exhibition and worked on a project that focused on the fine motor skills of cutting and sculpting. As the year went on, we incorporated more storytelling into our activities. For our workshop on emotional development, we read Our Many Colored Days in English and Spanish in front of a painting by Pierre Bonnard. Participants thought about the connection between the story and the painting and then focused on ideas of mood and emotion. At another workshop on imagination, Emmanuel and Mary read Where the River Begins in English and Spanish in the American Landscape Room. Participants were asked to look around as they listened to the story and imagine which paintings would fit as illustrations. At the end of the story we had a lively discussion about which paintings fit best and why. The group agreed that this kind of activity could work with many different stories. Finally, in one project, providers made their own books in the studio to foster the imagination. The hope is that these books can be used with the children and also spark new ideas for projects with kids.
As you can see, this collaboration has had quite an impact on the Gallery’s teaching. We now work with many more groups of young children as result of All Our Kin participants bringing children. We also do a lot more teaching in Spanish, which has helped us realize the importance of having multilingual staff members; we are keeping this in mind as we hire new Wurtele Gallery Teachers. The planning for the sessions has been truly collaborative and we have learned an enormous amount from our colleagues at All Our Kin.