Friday, July 17, 2009

Exposing kids at a young age

Every time I interact with kids, I realize how much they absorb when we least expect it. Some of the kids who are now young adults will mention something to me that I said or we did together that I either don't recall or didn't think was significant. It is those times when I realize how important it is to expose kids to a variety of events, concepts, and activities. All kids deserve to have a repertoire to draw from.

I heard about the Harmon and Harriet Kelley exhibit at the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth and thought it would be a great opportunity to take some kids. Tiffany, a current college student, has grown into a young adult who also appreciates these opportunities--for herself and the younger kids in her family, so I asked her to go. As expected, she brought along her two-year old niece and five-year old nephew. I took one of the kids in our summer program.

All three of the kids we took were younger than 2nd grade, but the one-on-one ratio provided the perfect opportunity to help the kids learn art museum etiquette while challenging the kids to think, observe, and critique the art.

Mr. and Mrs. Kelley chose paintings for their collection that demonstrated positive images of black people--contrary to many images that were in art during that time period. Although the kids never commented on the skin color of the people in the paintings, they recognized families, hard-working people, and other small details. I know those subtle messages Mr. and Mrs. Kelley aimed for were absorbed.

Before we went in, I asked the kids what they knew about art museums. They explained to me that it had birds, animals, and sand. I suppose they were confusing it with a zoo. When we came out, they still mentioned the birds and animals, but also understood that they were in the paintings.

When exposed, young kids can learn little lessons and make decisions about what they like and don't like...and can begin to develop the ability to hold educated conversations with people. After seeing the museum, Niemen decided, "I might work there."

The exhibit is open until August 23, 2009.
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