Tag: museum education

Listening Ears and Sensitive Antennae

What does it mean to truly listen— to our students and to each other?

During my first visit to the Bumble Bee classroom as part of CMA’s Imagine That program, I asked the class to tell me what some of their rules were. High on the list was ‘listening.’ When I asked what that meant and what that looked like, the students were happy to show me:

Josiah and Antonio demonstrating for me what it looks like to listen: open eyes, ready ears and mouths closed with a ‘caught bubble’.

Over the past year, as I’ve had the opportunity to work with young children in a variety of programs, this advice has been some of the most helpful I’ve received yet. It’s also been some of the most difficult to understand and put into practice. While I’m definitely not a Listening Expert, there are a few skills I’ve learned that I’m excited to share with you;

1) Be okay with silence. I love talking with people and sharing ideas and stories, but sometimes it’s better as an educator to stay silent- In silence, there’s space for reflection and room for new ideas to emerge.

2) Be present. Just being silent isn’t always listening- I could be composing a grocery list in my head, or thinking about what I’m going to say next, all while being totally silent. In doing so, however, I might miss an important moment or opportunity with a student, friend or colleague. Being fully present and ‘ready to receive’ keeps me from missing something important or jumping to conclusions.


Mary and her granddaughter, Ella, listening, learning and working together during our Young Child Studio program.

When we listen to someone, we are communicating that we care and find their responses valuable. In a building full of exciting, beautiful and provocative objects such as our museum, there are countless opportunities to respond to what we see and listen to responses together.


Like any other skill, deep listening only gets better the more one practices, and the better we are at listening, the more chances  we have to learn or make discoveries.

Inside the Strange and Wonderful World of a Museum Educator

Museum educator

If you’ve ever worked in the field of museum education, you know that people “on the outside” have no idea what that means. “That must be so fun,” we hear a lot. Yes, it is fun! However, no, we don’t teach kids how to paint all day! We do all kinds of strange things in this field.  In order to offer a bit of insight into the day-to-day experience of  a museum educator, I’ve interviewed the Studio and Outreach Coordinator here at CMA, Stephanie Rybicki. Here are some interesting tidbits I unearthed:

On a regular basis, Stephanie…

Comes up with creative challenges for program participants.  For Girl Scout Day, she had scouts recreate portraits by George Bellows:

Bellows interpretation

A not-so-pleasant aspect of Stephanie’s job is…

Unclogging glue bottles! With so much programming going on all the time, Stephanie is constantly cleaning, organizing, and setting up for the next workshop. It’s a good thing she has interns to help her out;)

One of Stephanie’s favorite work days was…

When artist Oliver Herring performed TASK, during which CMA visitors were invited to do all kinds of crazy things. Stephanie helped by building a fort of streamers and sending streamer bombs flying across the room.


Oliver Herring taking a selfie with a TASK participant

Stephanie has to mix the fun and hectic stuff with the boring and mundane stuff, just like any other job. Her most boring day was spent…

Sorting paper. To anyone interested in an internship here at CMA, we love people who can organize!

Stephanie will be leaving us soon, to pursue her career in the great state of Texas.  We are very sad. This experience has changed her by…

Making her more comfortable with silliness and being goofy. She can dress up like a “cat witch” (sorry, no picture), Photoshop glamour shots, or make tiny rats for a Caravaggio exhibit.

The lesson to be learned from Stephanie is that museum education can look like almost anything. So, stay on your toes and go with the flow!

Art Speaks. Join the Conversation.

- Susie Underwood, Manager for Studio Initiatives