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Ann’s favourite food from childhood is …
- wild mushrooms
- beetroot salad and rose chicken
Interviewer: Welcome to our Interview Series. Today we have invited Jody Madell who teaches the 9th grade at the Lyons Community School. She is also the co-director of the school, and has been at Lyons since 2007. Why should schools visit museums?
Jody: Without field trips, many students at my school might not be exposed to the great cultural institutions of the city — lots of kids rarely leave their neighborhoods. We like to take kids to different places, so that they can see what’s out in the world. In part our museum visits are academic; I would like students to learn specific things that I am teaching about. But also, we want them and their families to know that this is something that’s available to them in the city.
Interviewer: How do you use museums?
Jody: We take field trips every week, although they are not all to museums. In the 6th, the 7th, and the 8th grades we have units that culminate in museum-based presentations at the Brooklyn Museum. Teachers from each grade have a three-hour professional development with an educator at the Brooklyn Museum. The museum educator works with the teachers to plan the unit, including 1–3 visits that the museum educator will guide. During these guided tours the museum educator models giving a tour using objects, so that sixth graders can see how it’s done. We have been so happy with the professional development from the Brooklyn Museum — we really love that place. Each year they adjust to our needs.
Interviewer: Are all your museum trips to the Brooklyn Museum?
Jody: In the 9th grade we study world religions. We spend a lot of time on this — months. We visit places of worship, and also the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Met has an impressive collection of art from world religions, so we go there throughout the project to study objects. For their final project, we have the kids bring a parent to the Met and give them a tour. We want students to identify a theme, something to compare across religions. For example, how do different religions represent God? They have to pick objects for their tour, and think about questions that the person they will be touring around might have. By that point the kid knows the museum well enough to show the parent around, and the parent gets to see the museum.
Interviewer: Why do you use museums for this final project? Why not have kids write an essay comparing religions?
Jody: It’s an engaging project. With religions, objects are so important. By interacting with the objects you get a sense of the religions that you wouldn’t get from reading or a power point. And the project offers an emotional experience that leaves students excited about religions other than their own.
Interviewer: Do you ever book guided tours for your students at different museums?
Jody: Teachers at my school are very skeptical of going on a museum tour led by someone we don’t know. We pretty much never book tours led by museum staff. Our kids can be difficult to manage, especially for a museum educator who does not know their academic needs or interests. One museum wouldn’t let me book a self-guided visit, so the tour was led by a museum educator, and it was terrible. The educator couldn’t communicate well with the kids. She might have been fine with another group of kids, but there was no clear lesson, and the kids felt like the tour was purposeless. And one-off visits can be difficult even when they are taught by great museum educators because they don’t know exactly what the kids need.
Interviewer: What advice would you give teachers about planning field trips?
Jody: I would tell them not to consider taking kids to a museum on a guided tour if you can’t work with the museum educator in some way before going. Teachers need to go to the museum themselves to plan. When I plan trips I look at the museum website first to orient myself, but then I visit the museum to see the work in person and learn more about it.
Interviewer: Thank you very much!