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New program takes kids out of the classroom and into the Kingston arts community

Kingston Heritage
10 October 2014

Field trips are a highlight for most elementary school students. They present a chance to get out of school and explore new things. Now, a new program in Kingston is expanding that idea and taking kids ‘beyond the classroom’ for an entire week.

The program is called Beyond Classrooms and the basic idea is to move teachers and their classrooms into community museums, art galleries and other community sites for a full school week. The program recently launched in Kingston and the Agnes Etherington Art Centre was happy to be one of the first community participants.

“I had heard about the program from fellow museum educators in other cities and I thought it was a great program and a great way for students to have an in depth experience with current collections and exhibitions in a museum,” said Patricia Sulllivan, public programs manager for the Agnes. “I let the organizers know that I would be interested in being a site and I was very happy when three teachers purposed to bring their classes to the Agnes this year.”

The first group made the Agnes their home from Oct. 6-10. Grade 5,6 and 7 students from Holy Name Catholic School had the unique opportunity to explore photo galleries, learn about the history of Agnes Etherington and apply what they learned to different projects.

 “We can bring kind of a special experience and curriculum to what the teacher already has going,” explained Sullivan. “We make use of the experts on staff to speak to the kids and we very much have a partnership with the teacher. They have certain goals that they want to achieve during the week and we work to enhance that.”

During their week at the Agnes, students toured the Etherington House and learned about the famous founder, explored an African mask exhibit and toured a photographic exhibit of Kingston Penitentiary. Tours occurred in the morning and then teachers led interactive activities with the students in the afternoon.

“The good thing about a week like this is that the teacher is there while the Agnes expert is doing the talk. The kids journal about what they have learned right away, then they go back to the studio and share their reflections and then the teacher follows up with a further discussion based on what just took place. I think it is very enriching,” said Sullivan.

Students also seemed to enjoy the process, with many of them remarking that it didn’t feel like school and they loved learning about the pieces of art and interacting with them.

The program will continue in a few weeks with another school and a third in the spring and Sullivan looks forward to seeing how those go as well. She also hopes that more schools take interest and apply for the program in the future.

“I think that a program like this shows the adaptability of an art gallery. You don’t have to come here and just learn about art. Of course art is what we are showing and we are certainly teaching children about art, but it can also be a vehicle for learning about other subjects too. They can learn about social studies and local history and art can be used to teach so many different subjects.”

-Mandy Marciniak, Reporter, Kingston Heritage/Frontenac Gazette
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