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Guest Post: Calling All Preschoolers to Meet Me at the Museum!

A guest blog post about Meet Me at the Museum as part of our Agenda: Pre-K series.

Meet Me at the Museum: Here, there and everywhere! is an arts & culture enrichment program that invites the School District of Philadelphia’s Pre-K children and their family members to meet their teachers, support teams, and/or administrators at selected free or low-cost art and cultural events hosted by institutions throughout Philadelphia. The goals are to introduce families of young children to the broad array of opportunities available to support literacy and learning outside of the classroom, and to foster a deep appreciation of, and regular engagement with, arts and culture among our families.

The School District of Philadelphia has a long history of incorporating arts and culture into its Pre-K programs. Meeting the individual needs of children and enhancing family life is central to the success of our programs. While many of the methods employed by our program are also utilized by other exemplary pre kindergarten programs, the focus on arts and culture as a tool that supports problem solving, creativity, literacy, and cognitive development of children, stand out for our programs. In an age when many schools or programs have been forced to cut funding for arts programming, we have bolstered our focus on the arts and cultural experiences for our families. Programming for the 2016-2017 school year includes professional development for instructional staff revolving around creative and expressive art in the preschool classroom, in addition to partnerships with The Academy of Natural Sciences, The Barnes Foundation and Spiral Q which are integral to our Meet at the Museum program.

To begin the 2016-17 school year, Pre-K instructional staff attended professional development hosted by The Academy of Natural Sciences and engaged in hands on learning that focused on the academic benefits of supporting children’s inquiry, creative and expressive arts in the classroom. Teachers were also engaged in the various exhibits and explored new strategies to support parent and student learning when visiting museums during the school year. Highlights included discovery, open-ended questioning, and creative expression.

Our partnership with Barnes Foundation began in 2014 and is growing stronger each year. The goal of the partnership is for teachers and students to develop a personal relationship with the visual arts through interactive classroom experiences and gallery visits. The program introduce a perspective unique to the Barnes Foundation which emphasizes careful looking, reflecting on concepts, and connecting to prior knowledge while integrating art across the curriculum.

Highlights include Barnes representatives supporting teachers with lesson design and visits to the Barnes for teachers, students and family members. It is very rewarding to visit the Barnes with a preschool child who can engage in a discussion about line, color, and shape, not to mention a gentle reminder to the adult to keep behind the brown inlay in the hardwood floor. This school year, we also had the honor of hosting parent/child workshops with esteemed artists from Spiral Q. These workshops have been successful in bridging the gap between our early childhood integrated study units and the arts. The Spiral Q artists helped children, who attended sessions with their parents, create free, expressive art pieces together. Each session was specifically designed to support the classroom curriculum.

This is just a sampling of how our programs support culture and the arts while creating students who are ready for school and the future. The Meet Me at the Museum program is our newest modality for exposing our youngest students and their families to all thecultural experiences Philadelphia has to offer. Locations and events that include an educational component and appeal to young children are considered. Teachers provide families with information for the upcoming Meet Me at the Museum location. While at theselected location, families explore the sights and sounds along with Pre-K program staff. Scheduled meet-ups occur after school hours and on weekends at the zoo, museums, farms, gardens, special cultural events and any other festivity that may be especially enriching for young children. Our next meet up is August 29 at the Smith Memorial Playground! The program just began spring 2017 and we look forward to the new school year. We hope to see you at the museum!