Educating the Educator
A report from the field by Debi Germann, LW’s Director of Education

4th grade students from P.S. 163 observing and sketching local architecture.

As the Dir. of Education for LANDMARK WEST!, I lead Keeping the Past for the Future, our youth education program that works with Upper West Side elementary schools to help young students discover the architecture and history of their own neighborhood.

On three Thursdays in January, I participated in a course at the Frick Collection, “On An Experience Of A Work Of Art,” led by Rika Burnham, Head of Education at the Frick and noted leader in the field of museum education. 

Guided by philosopher John Dewey’s theory of “an experience,” where one feels a sense of fulfillment after observing, discussing, and learning about a work of art, Ms. Burnham led over twenty educators and art enthusiasts through after-hours workshops at the Frick Collection. 

Self-portrait of the artist Rembrandt,
via Art History.

At each of our evening sessions, we spent one hour observing and discussing a single painting, from a Rembrandt self-portrait to one of Degas’ famed depictions of a ballet studio. We then analyzed the process that we used to gain a greater understanding of the piece

Although studying art is mostly an interpretive process, and looking at architecture is more black-and-white, the two can be taught in a remarkably similar manner. Observation, discussion, and the distribution of information are three important elements to having “an experience.” This process is one that we use to bring the study of preservation to students through Keeping the Past for the Future.  

By observing, sketching, and getting information about local architecture, students come away with a better sense of their own neighborhood. They can look at the Ansonia the same way they look at a Rembrandt!

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