One Snite Museum of Art program for the South Bend Schools is called Jump Start. Second graders learn about portraits, third graders do sculpture and fourth graders study Native-American art.
Last week I went to two different schools to introduce the sculpture program to 3rd grade classes. This morning I led four third grade classes for 30 minutes each through the museum itself to look at the sculptures and talk about them.
It was a blur of activity and a diversity of faces. Once more I was told that my name tag was upside down. This may be my trademark. At least it has not been a bad omen; maybe it will become my superstition for a good morning.
The children are very eager to respond. Hands are up constantly and sometimes responses can't wait for being called on. The children are reminded about "museum manners" and not touching the objects or the pedestals, but this is pretty difficult for kids to remember and reminders are needed.
One close call was the child who squeezed between the model of the Griffon and the window to look at the large Griffon guarding the Snite outside. I saw the pedestal wobble and got him out of there fast!
We purposely seat the children on the right side of Nydia, the Blind Girl of Pompei, so they don't have to focus on her bare breast. One group noticed anyway and there were several children craning their necks to see the other side. One asked why she was dressed that way.
I told the children that another Remington Bronco Buster was in the Oval Office and did they know where that was? One asked if that was my office. Another guessed that it was the principal's! They did enjoy seeing the photo of President Obama with the Bronco Buster in the background.
Some responses are so interesting and observant. The children see things that I hadn't noticed. "What is that at Nydia's feet?" "Those faces look like tuba mouthpieces."
Others are so egocentric as children can often be. I said that the Snite's maquette (a new word for me!) of Mozart I was a model of a sculpture at Stanford University in California. One child eagerly raised her hand and said, "My cousin lives in California."
One of our most important goals as docents is to have the children feel welcome at an art museum. I made sure to ask each group to come back with their friends and relatives and give them their own tour. I hope they do just that.