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Friday, September 16, 2011

School Partnerships at the Rosenbach

Elyse Poinsett here, the official stand for the Special Events and Marketing hats at the Rosenbach. Most of you probably know me best as the voice behind our e-newsletter, facebook page, and Twitter feed.


If you’ve been anywhere the past few weeks, I’m sure you’ve run into the Back-to-School shopping madness. And if you’re like me, you’re having fantasies about what it’d be like to be 10 years old again, with worries that maxed out at whether you wanted a purple or blue trapper keeper.

Interrupting one such daydream, Director of Education Emilie Parker stopped by my office a few days ago to hand me a batch of thank you-notes from students at two of our partner schools. After dreaming about their worry-free lives, I could not resist reading what they had to say about what occupies a large part of my life: the Rosenbach.

Either the world has changed or the Rosenbach is just very special. (I personally think it’s a bit of the former and a lot of the latter.) Because these were not the fill-in-the-blank notes of my classroom days.

From a 1st Grader:

From a 7th Grader:

It’s obvious that we have something special going on in our education department. What is it?

One thing’s for sure: we don’t practice the “let ‘em loose!” method of museum field trips from my childhood. Students here participate in in-depth projects that often span multiple sessions over the course of months. Students have a high-quality, intimate, experience with our collections and staff.

For example, middle school students who came to the Rosenbach this spring learned about Yellow Fever in 18th-century Philadelphia. After reading and examining objects related to the Yellow Fever in our collections, the students wrote diary entries from the perspective of historic people during the epidemic. After learning about distance perspective in art, they also created drawings to go along with their entries.

On their last visit, staff gathered to watch the student’s multi-media presentation that included pre-recording readings of their entries that played alongside a slideshow of their drawings. Then, the same students performed historic dances. What started out as a group of shy or sly tweens quickly turned into a dance performance worthy of some kind of Dance Award.

Reading, writing, and drawing? Dancing? (tweens doing anything enthusiastically?!) Talk about a well-rounded education!

Want another example? Last spring, the first graders from Chester Upland School for the Arts participated in a program designed to help them understand elementary concepts of poetry. I’ll let them tell you what they did in their own words:

"During our poetry exploration, we read a lot of poetry to understand what poetry is from haiku to Shel Silverstein and many poems in between. We also studied a poem by Langston Hughes titled City. While on our field trip, we walked around Philadelphia to experience the city through our senses. We took notes, made sketches, and recorded sensory observations in our poetic journals. We used these ideas to create a city poem like Langston Hughes. We tried to use phrases that were beautiful and “sound like a poem” or POETIC LINES."

Here are a few of my favorite lines from their thank you notes:
  • “Thank you Rosenbach brothers (Abraham and Philip) for having such a cool house turned museum”
  • “Rosenback: …I like the poem… Thank you =) I feelt happy.”
  • “Ms. Emilie, I like when we was in the brother’s home it is cool.”
  • “Dear Ms. Emilie… I love you.”
  • “Ms. Emilie, I wish we can come again!!"
To me, their accolades are POETIC LINES. And yes, whoever asked… you can come back with your mom! I’ve got my fingers crossed that their youthful excitement about poetry, Yellow Fever, and the Rosenbach is a symptom of a new generation who just LOVES arts and culture. In the meantime, congratulations to Emilie and Assistant Director of Education Farrar Fitzgerald for showing them the way!

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