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Monday, July 19, 2004

Kid-friendly art


Making life better

It's not always easy to get children riled up about going to a museum. To their inquisitive, younger minds, it's just a big building that holds a lot of old - and sometimes dead - stuff. Getting them to understand how important that old, dead stuff actually is can be a difficult exercise in discipline for both parent and child. And if the experience isn't kid-friendly and hands-on, you might as well forget about holding their attention.

A $62,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to the Cincinnati Art Museum hopes to change all that.

The Arlitt Child and Family Research and Education Center at the University of Cincinnati, as well as Cincinnati Public Schools, will be working closely with the Cincinnati Art Museum to help develop a curriculum to create a series of learning experiences that connect visual arts, children's literature and performing arts to strengthen language arts skills and social interaction for children 3 to 8. Early childhood is the ideal age as kids begin to learn about the world and themselves, said Ted Lind, curator of education at the museum. "We offered programs for this age group, but we wanted to expand the program a little bit, providing professional development for their teachers."

By working with the Arlitt Center, which is a lab school at UC that draws in an incredibly diverse population to their early childhood department, the museum hopes to create an effective curriculum that enables teachers to bring the museum into the classroom and vice versa. The program is about changing teaching practices - educating educators on how to use museum objects to strengthen language arts teaching. In a pilot test with Arlitt, teachers went through the museum and noted works of art from the permanent galleries that would interest their students. They then showed their kids reproductions of the pieces, and when the students visited the museum to visit the exhibits they had studied, they were already engaged.

"It's about learning about art, looking at it and talking about it, not necessarily making it," said Lind. "I was surprised at how much time a 4-year-old can look at a work of art."

The entire team, consisting of Arlitt, Cincinnati Public Schools' Schiel Primary for Arts Enrichment and the Cincinnati Art Museum, will meet this week to discuss shaping the program. And, we expect, they'll shape children's schooling into a more museum-friendly environment.

This feature appears on Mondays. Is there someone or something you have encountered that makes life better in Greater Cincinnati? Send your suggestions to Ray Cooklis at rcooklis@enquirer.com.



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