For several years now, fifth grade students at Wiley have had the opportunity to spend an entire week of school at the Krannert Art Museum in Champaign. The museum, affiliated with the University of Illinois, has an impressive collection of artwork and some amazing educators who are passionate about sharing art with students. This event, known as KAM-WAM, has been the envy of younger students. As I have watched my former students move up and participate, I, too, have felt envy that they had this remarkable experience. I love museums, I love art, and, no surprise, I love art museums!
So it was with quite a large amount of excitement that I learned last year that the fourth graders would get to pilot a sister program. Instead of spending a whole week at the museum, they would get to spend just one day, but it would still be the entire day. A team was assembled and we started planning over the summer and then met a few times over the course of this year, determining the format, the schedule, and the purpose. A date was selected, permission slips sent home, and finally the day, today, arrived. Noting that the day would be quick but powerful, it was decided that this shorter event would be known as KAM BAM.
Even though it was bitterly cold outside, we loaded our 45 fourth graders (three were absent today) onto the bus shortly after school started and headed over to the art museum. After a brief introduction and reminder of museum rules and policies, the students split into their four groups and went on a scavenger hunt around the museum for the morning, learning about the different galleries. Students got to view art from around the world, including eastern Asia, the Mediterranean, Europe, Africa, South America, and even contemporary North America. They learned, they examined, they discussed, and they shared prior knowledge about cultures and art.
The afternoon was spent in four different groupings, participating in creation stations around the museum. I didn’t get to visit all of the stations, as I wanted to create alongside my group, but some of the art that students created included sculptures made with aluminum foil and tape, designer hats made with paper, eight-page graphic novel mini-books, storyboarding with statues as the inspiration.
The entire day went by so quickly I could hardly believe it was actually over! There were times in the museum that I felt particularly nervous, especially when we visited the gallery for the Mandala Flea Market Mutants, which has several fragile pieces on display in a relatively small space. However, our fourth graders proved once again that I had no cause to worry. They were safe, respectful, and responsible the whole time they were in the art museum. After returning to school, I informally polled my class and learned that many had a wonderful time and are planning on returning to the museum with their families to show the exhibits they saw and visit other galleries. A huge shout-out of gratitude to all the folks at the Krannert Art Museum, the Urbana School District #116 fine arts program, and my colleagues here at Wiley for helping to make this such a memorable experience!