When Dad was stationed in Italy, our mom dragged us to every art museum and church in Europe. I appreciate her efforts to expose us to art and credit the experiences with fostering my love for color, pattern, and stained glass. I want our homeschooling to include the same types of experiences. But how do you keep an almost nine-year-old boy engaged at an art museum?
This week, Peck and I were in Tampa with my parents for Dad’s semi-annual visit to Moffit Cancer Center. Mom wanted to tour the Salvador Dali museum, and I was jazzed about it as well. But it would be the first time I’d done anything like that with Peck. I scrambled in the hotel room, trying to think up some activities to keep him focused.
When Tech was this age, we enjoyed choosing a painting or statue, imitating or reacting to it, and taking pictures of ourselves.
But I figured a museum as renowned as The Dali would be too crowded for this kind of high jinks. And I was correct. While not overcrowded, a steady stream of people filled the walkways. It would not have been possible or appropriate to goof around.
Tech also enjoyed finding a painting or statue and sketching it. We’d bring paper and colored pencils to the gallery. Tech would take his time recreating the art. Again, I didn’t think The Dali would be a good environment for this activity. Plus, Peck’s mild fine motor issues keep him from enjoying drawing.
There a few different ways to turn a trip to the museum into a scavenger hunt. The first requires some planning. Go to the museum website and print out a few pictures of items from the gallery. On museum day, take your print outs and have the kids locate the individual pieces. Unfortunately, I didn’t have access to a printer in the hotel room. Another option is to hit the gift shop first, select a few post cards of paintings, and use the cards as a scavenger list.
In the end, I decided to make a couple of worksheets. I hoped they would be a light introduction to some facets of art: the emotional reaction and composition. Peck wrote the names of paintings on the blanks and answered the questions.
Being a very literal child, Peck had some trouble with the symbolic nature of Dali’s work. His emotional response was “What in tarnation!” and “It’s so unpredictable!” His favorite was The Hallucinogenic Toreador because, “It was so big and hidden.”
Break It Up
We paused for lunch in the museum’s cafe and also wandered around the gift shop. Breaking up the day allowed Peck time to get his wiggles out. It was much easier for him pay attention with the day divided into shorter intervals. It also helped that there were stairs to climb up and down between floors.
Mom, Peck and I relished our day with Dali. It was a bonding experience and a learning experience. Art museum’s don’t have to be off-limits to your students. With a little creativity, you can make a trip engaging as well as educational.
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