Category Archives: Kids

WAM: Back to School Edition

By Molly Braswell
Learning and Interpretation Assistant

It’s been a busy and exciting summer at the PMA and as September gets closer, the Learning and Interpretation Department can’t help but look forward to the return of school tours. During the school year, the energy of school tours transforms our museum; it is wonderful to see and hear kids in the galleries, excited to be looking at art (and probably to be away from school!). The PMA’s Free School Tours, made possible by the Margaret E. Burnham Charitable Trust, give Maine students the opportunity to experience one-of-a-kind artwork in person, and to see the way that our state influences artists and their work. Last year the PMA hosted over 9,000 school kids and we are looking forward to another amazing year.

The tours are guided by PMA docents, our very talented and energetic group of volunteers. The docents personalize each tour, tying in the students’ interests and classroom content; they also add a bit of their own personality and perspective to their tours as well. Docents have a variety of backgrounds and experiences, and it’s fun to see how their own ideas and passions are expressed through their tours. Along these lines, some docents have favorite age groups, and prefer to give tours to certain grades. Luckily for the PMA, we have docents for every grade, and of course there are many docents who love teaching all ages.

To get us geared up for the start of the school year, I thought I would share what some of our docents love about touring the museum with students at each stage and age: what students seem to enjoy most about their visits, how different grades contribute to the tours, and why museum visits are fun for all ages.

Kathy Sheehan loves working with the younger kids (grades 1-3) because “they are engaged, very talkative, and are excited to answer questions or participate in discussions.” Before becoming a docent, Kathy was a preschool and kindergarten teacher, so she has a lot of experience with this age. She really enjoys showing these students the artwork in the museum because “their observations are keen, unique, and sometimes very funny.” Kathy says that as soon as these younger students walk into the PMA’s spacious and commanding Selma Wolf Black Great Hall, “they know they’re in for a new adventure!”

PMA docent Rhonda Pearle enjoys taking 4th and 5th graders on tours of the PMA because “they are always excited, willing to share, and sincerely interested in the art they are experiencing.” Rhonda appreciates how the students’ thoughts about a work of art can enable her to look at the work in a completely new way. When Rhonda’s own children were in elementary school, she was involved in creating a volunteer art program for the school. They had a program for each grade, but Rhonda especially loved working with the 4th and 5th graders—she noticed how students at this age really enjoy expressing their own opinions and contributing thoughtfully to a project.

As a former middle school teacher, Sue Smith particularly enjoys taking middle school students on a tour of the museum. Sue points out that students of this age are “old enough to handle more complicated issues and ideas,” and as they have several years of school under their belts, they are able to relate the art to topics they have discussed in school. Sue has learned that middle schoolers “like variety, and it is so easy to provide that at the Portland Museum of Art.” She discovered that “they like anything that is relevant to their lives.” If a student can relate to a piece of art, they will want to share personal stories and observations about the work. Sue believes that “middle school students can be great visitors—they can be quite discerning, opinionated, and fun-loving all at the same time.”

Carolyn Outwin is the docent to call for high school groups. She has always worked with this age group—it is the grade she was certified to teach. She enjoys how high schoolers can really focus while on the tour, and how excited the students can be about what’s in the museum. She particularly appreciates how high school students bring their own personal experiences to the tour—for example, a student on one of her tours made excellent observations while looking at Winslow Homer’s painting, Fox Hunt. In this painting of crows and a fox, it is unclear if the crows are hunting the fox, or vice versa. During a conversation about the work, this student pointed out that “crows don’t hunt—they eat carrion.” The other students in the group then told Carolyn that this student hunts with his father and grandfather. Carolyn is always amazed when students use their own experiences to analyze a painting.

The PMA is excited to have students of all ages in the galleries this year. We hope the students enjoy the tours as much as we enjoying giving them!

WAM (Why Art Matters) is a blog series dedicated to taking a closer look at how and why art matters. From art education in schools to communicating with artists, tell us…why does art matter?

25 Mini-Adventures at the PMA

By Molly Braswell
Learning and Interpretation Assistant

Inspired by Mamascout’s blog post, “25 mini-adventures in the library,” we wanted to share 25 mini-adventures for families to have at the PMA!

1. Grab a museum map from the Visitor Experience Desk. Now, with your eyes closed, point to a spot on the map. Open your eyes–that’s where you should explore today!

2. Pick a gallery and spend 10 minutes there. After 10 minutes have everyone in your family present their favorite piece and explain why they picked it.

3. Bring sketchbooks and pencils. Sit in a gallery and draw for a while.

4. Explore the new PMA Family Space: Design Lab.

5. Visit the McLellan House. Which room you would want as your bedroom if you lived there in the 1800s? Talk about what life would be like if this were your house—what would you eat or wear?

6. Bring a blank postcard to the museum, or pick one up in the PMA Store. Draw your favorite painting on the back and mail it to a friend.

7. Grab a cell phone and dial into Family Voices Cell Phone Tour.

8. Introduce yourself to a Gallery Officer. Ask what their favorite painting is in the gallery.

9. Check out the PMA’s Sculpture Gallery, then explore Portland on foot and look for more sculptures. Which are your favorites?

10. Visit a local antiques or furniture store. Pick out pieces that you think would look good in the McLellan House.

11. Come to a PMA Picks and hear PMA staff talk about their favorite works of art.

12. Sit on a bench in a gallery and make up stories about the other museum visitors. Who are they? Where are they from? Are they from Maine or visiting from away? Which artwork in that gallery do you think is their favorite?

13. Head up to the third floor to Voice of Design: 25 Years of Architalx. Touch the 17-foot tall tower. What happens? What do you see?

14. Visit the four Stop and Look Stations located through the museum. Each family member can listen to a different audio clip and then summarize it for the others.

15. Look up! Pay attention to the architecture of the PMA. Take the stairs and think about why the architect chose to put the windows and stairs where he did.

16. Go on a safari! Find as many animals in works of art as you can. Split into teams and explore the museum. Did both teams count the same number of animals?

17. Have family members take turns standing in front of paintings and closing their eyes. The other family members can try to describe the painting. Once the family member opens their eyes, you can see how successful you were.

18. Find a painting with a lot going on and make up a story about what is happening. Who are the people in the painting? What are their names? What happened right before this scene? What happened right after?

19. Visit the PMA and then take a walk in the woods. Look at the trees and the flowers like you would look at a painting; notice all of the colors and shapes in nature.

20. Look at the paintings of boats, fishermen, and the ocean in the second floor gallery, then take a walk down to the wharfs. Do the boats look the same as in the painting? What is different?

21. Give your kids each a few dollars to pick out their own treats at the PMA Cafe. Enjoy your snacks while you talk about the artwork you saw that day.

22. Visit the PMA Store. Browse the selection of children’s books and creative games.

23. After your day at the PMA, go home and select objects from your house to create your own museum exhibition.

24. Invite your friends and take them on your own PMA tour.

25. Pick an artist you like and then walk to the Portland Public Library down the street! Look up that artist and read about their life.

February and Families in the Galleries

By Julia Einstein, Assistant Director of Family and Studio Learning

School vacation week is the perfect time for families to discover new adventures in their own backyard. From Neo-Classicial sculptures to Impressionist paintings of Europe, let the PMA take your family on a worldly tour—all without leaving the museum!

Family Voices Cell Phone Tour
To get the most out of your family’s visit, make sure you have your cellphone with you! With a quick call, you and your child can listen to audio tours of other children with their parents discussing works in the museum’s collection. Designed to encourage you and your family into the conversation. Bring art to life and dial in some fun!

Stop and Look Stations
Stop and Look Stations, encourage your child to take the lead! Located throughout the galleries, each station is equipped with audio iPods, cards with questions and facts about artwork, and interactive learning tools. Families with children of all ages will experience an array of perspectives for a variety of learning styles. Enjoy a take-away card to continue the conversation at home.

PMA Family Space
This brand new activity room is located in the Federal-era McLellan House. Throughout the year, different artists will curate new, artful activities for you family in the space. Draw a family portrait or sit at the writing desk and share your museum experience. Look at art, read, draw, and play together!

PMA Café
A clean plate is the best kind of happy meal! We’ve added new, kid-friendly items to our menu for a delicious break from your museum visit. Peanut butter and jelly, ham and cheese, spaghetti and meatballs, and macaroni and cheese are great options for lunch, while we also have apples with peanut butter, Stonyfield yogurt, and Aurora Provision’s snack mix for a lighter treat. Questions about the menu or an item you’d like to see? Ask our staff, we’re happy to help however we can!