The adventures of a fourth grade teacher in East Central Illinois.


I love the many amazing community resources we have here in the Champaign-Urbana area! My students have been able to see an opera at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts and we have had visitors to come in to present to our class. Today we got to experience yet another wonderful event: KAM BAM.

This program grew out of a longer tradition that my school has participated in for several years: KAM WAM. This is a weeklong immersion in arts education at the Krannert Art Museum. (KAM WAM is Krannert Art Museum–Week at the Museum). My class last year was invited to be a part of a test pilot of a one-day event at the museum. We were asked to participate again this year and my fourth grade partner and I have been planning on it for several months now.

The day started with a quick overview in a classroom at the museum. Then the students broke up into groups for a scavenger hunt through the museum. I was with a group that was looking for examples of artwork that related to things be gross. We visited four sections of the museum: the Gallery of Decorative Arts, Art of Ancient Peru, Arts of the Ancient Mediterranean, and Art of Africa. In Decorative Arts, the students looked at a clay serving plate featuring many different animals, including a snake, frogs, insects, and eels. The gross aspect of the art was that the artist used live animals to make his molds for the plate. In order to keep them still, he first placed them in a vat of urine because the high acidic quantity decreased their movement!


After learning about the plate, they were given the opportunity to design their own animal-themed plates, using Safari Ltd. Toobs. One group of boys were arranging animals from the arctic and, with my help, decided that an Inuit hunter with a pet polar bear would be the most powerful force, with an arctic hare riding a caribou a close second.













In the exhibition featuring ancient Peruvian art, the students saw funeral clothes that were dyed bright red. They learned that this beautiful textiles were coloured with cochineals, small insects that are smashed to make the dye! They also learned that cochineals are used as a natural food colouring and is found in many everyday products, such as candies, strawberry yogurts, and lip balms. We also learned about ear spools, which were used by Peruvian royalty to stretch their earlobes.




Our next stop was the ancient Mediterranean, where we examined a stone carving from Egypt featuring Khepri, the ancient Egyptian god of rebirth and sunrises. He is represented by the scarab, also known as the dung beetle. We watched a video of two scarabs pushing a ball of dung up a hill, trying to get the ball filled with eggs into a safe place. The scarab was used as the symbol of Khepri because the ancients thought the way scarab pushed balls of dung was similar to the way Khepri pushed the sun through the sky.


The last stop of the morning was the gallery of African art, where students learned about ritual dance masks featuring buffalo with birds on their heads. The birds, called oxpeckers, feed on the insects that are often found on the buffalo. (Oxpeckers will also feed directly on the buffalo themselves.) Our museum guide had the students play a game pretending to place insects on each other’s backs and then try to pick them off as quickly as possible!


After lunch, the students from both classes formed into new groups, learning about careers in art museums, including educators, installers, marketers, and publishers. I got to work with the marketing group, which was in charge of designing buttons that featured the art work that they had seen in the museum. Each of the twelve students had to make at least four buttons so that each student in the grade could get a button to remember their day!


We wrapped up our day at the museum with each of the four groups presenting on what they had learned. It was a great experience for all and I was so impressed by how much the students had learned in such a short period of time! I am also feeling much more confident about our field trip to Springfield, Illinois, in April, where students will visit the Illinois State Museum, the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, and the Illinois State Capitol!


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