Art is so much more than just art: It can be science, culture, motion, and history, as well as color, line, and shape. Young children naturally think like artists, and their imagination is at its peak during their early development as students. Yet educators struggle with ways to develop and instill creative and critical thinking skills—crucial tools that his generation needs to utilize their creative impulses in educational and civic pursuits. As a docent at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, I work in conjunction with the Smithsonian Early Childhood Education program, engaging Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten children from Title 1 schools, where 40 percent or more of the students enrolled are eligible for free or reduced lunches.
Equipped with my knowledge from the six-month docent training course, I teach these children about visual art in a museum setting. As a new docent, I am excited to introduce children to a museum and see that they fully experience all it has to offer. At the Brooks, children have the opportunity to see, touch, and feel the materials an artist might have used in creating a piece. Engaging these children in this setting while they are young takes the fear out of the museum experience and brings out the fun. Of course, the kids aren’t the only ones gaining from this experience.
Here are the top five things I've learned during my first year as a Brooks Museum docent:
1. Get down low and look up at the artwork through the eyes of a child. This perspective might just give you new insight on a piece of art you thought you knew all about.
2. Art inspires critical thinking rather than getting the right answer
3. The smiles and enthusiasm are contagious.
4. You won’t know everything, but you will probably learn something new with every tour.
5. Children are far smarter and more creative than we give them credit for. You will often be amazed at how much they can offer if you take the time to watch and listen.
Visit brooksmuseum.org/become-a-docent to inquire about becoming a Brooks Museum docent today.