In part two of my three posts on this year’s Satellite teen program, I’m sharing the unexpected data that helped me see the bigger picture about my students’ ability to reflect thanks to being in the program.
There’s a reason why the summer teen program at the Milwaukee Art Museum is called ArtXpress. In less than a month, a group of sixteen high school students came together to absorb the current Kandinsky: A Retrospective exhibition, digest the meaning of abstraction, and collectively orchestrate their own Kandinsky-esque abstract mural to be blown up onto an Milwaukee County Transit System (MCTS) bus that will travel routes all over the city. In addition, the teens also mentored Milwaukee Public Schools elementary schoolers through the exhibition, challenging the teens to more deeply articulate the important aspects of Kandinsky’s pioneering work in abstract art.
Over the past four years, I have worked with hundreds of Milwaukee-area teens who love art, and who, over their time in teen programs at the Milwaukee Art Museum, grow to love museums as well.
I have always had a sense that my students grow over their time at the Museum. This year, though, to really study that growth, we designed our longstanding Satellite High School Program as a year-long experience to explore exactly how weekly sessions at an art museum might change the thinking of our teen participants. To that end, our program outcome for students was that they would show an increased ability to reflect upon their own experiences and performance.
For my internship with the Satellite High School program, Chelsea, my supervisor, let me organize the elementary school visits, where our teens taught much younger students about art in our collection. The teen interns work with students from Milwaukee Public Schools Community Learning Centers (CLCs) to introduce them to the Museum Collection and the feature exhibition. This was a challenging yet rewarding experience to manage!
As an upcoming art educator myself, I found I had to take into account different layers of teaching. I first only thought about the lesson I would teach to the teens–meaning I would show them what exactly we would be doing with the kids. But soon I realized the extra layer–that the teens would then be teaching the younger students. So essentially, I was teaching how to teach.
Teen programs provide a very different kind of opportunity for museums to experiment with interpretation. Because many teens participate in multiple programs for extended lengths of time, they become advocates and resources for our museums and collections. Here at the Milwaukee Art Museum, I’ve been experimenting with interpretation strategies that go deeper than one-day-only programs, providing not only learning experiences for students involved, but powerful tools and content for the Museum, too.