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Third-grade students from Millard Fillmore Elementary School in Moravia visited the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, located on the Cornell University campus in Ithaca, on Dec 5. Both I and the museum's coordinator for school and family programs, Carol Hockett, worked in tandem to create an educational experience for students that correlates with the third-grade art curriculum.

Sixty-one students, a record group size for the Johnson, went by buses to the museum, which was opened early to accommodate the students’ school schedule. With half of the museum still dark and roped-off, students, teachers and chaperones, were guided by docents and security guards to four separate areas of the museum. All learning experiences were highly interactive. Activities included playing with shadow puppets, sitting like a meditating Buddha, drawing, feeling snakeskin and practicing Chinese brush painting.

Students saw the Visible Storage Gallery, where they marveled at more than 1,000 works of art. There, they used digital tablets to look up objects by reference number to acquire more information about that object. Students were then led to a Japanese garden, where they learned about the ancient Japanese story that inspired the garden. Students wrote haiku poems with the garden as the subject. To cap off a great day, students were able to go out on the third-floor terrace to see the Leo Villareal LED light installation, titled “Cosmos.” While lying on zero-gravity benches, students were able to marvel at the moving light installation.

Hockett and I are planning to make this an annual event for the third-grade students of Millard Fillmore Elementary and for the Johnson museum staff. My students and I would like to thank third-grade classroom teachers Trish Genson, Kristin Johnson, Ronica Weeks and Meg Gremli for the details that they tended to make their trip possible and to parent chaperones, nurses and aides. Lastly, we would like to thank Carol Hockett and volunteer docents Renee Freed, Marjorie Redleaf and Jackie Wakula for giving so generously of their time.

Sheila Hatfield is an art teacher at Millard Fillmore Elementary School in Moravia.

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