A Rainy Morning at the Art Institute of Chicago

On October 5th and 6th, the staff went “off campus” for professional development. Friday was spent at the Art Institute of Chicago. What a great place to spend a rainy morning!  We arrived before the museum opened and were greeted by a young woman, who happened to be the niece of Marsha Enright, one of our founders.  She recognized our school’s name right away, of course, but it also became quickly clear that she had taken the time to research the basics of Montessori curriculum and philosophy.

We began by picking a piece of art that drew us to art and education. We spoke on why we had made our choice and what our hopes for the art workshop were. Our stories came easily, which really shouldn’t be a surprise as we all have an appreciation of the beauty of our environment. But there was something else. I noticed how comfortable we all felt in sharing our thoughts and experiences, feeling secure that there would be no judgment.

The museum was ours for quite awhile. We peacefully spent our time perched on little museum stools in front of pieces of art. It struck me that on a normal museum visit, in an effort to see as much as possible during my time there, I would have probably given those pieces about 30 seconds of my appreciation. We practiced different techniques of sharing our observations. It was surprising how much we saw once we took time to really look. Listening to others about what they saw evoked questions that might have answers but most likely encouraged more questions. These methods of observation and questioning and discussion can be easily transferred to our classroom experience on a daily basis.

Coming back into the classroom, I was surprised that I didn’t feel the need to start Art Appreciation 101! Instead both Mrs .Dobilaitis and I came back with a renewed resolution to make our classroom a peaceful and safe environment and allow the time to observe and share our thoughts, ideas, and ponderings. It is not a luxury but a necessity.