Carol Berner, Lecturer in Education and Child Study, Smith College
My favorite museum moment happened last July during a visit from Clarke School students investigating the theme of “Water and Works of Art.” We started the morning visit on the sunny dock of the Boat House where children soaked in the scenery and made sensory observations of Paradise Pond. Inside the Museum we looked at artworks inspired by water, starting with the 2nd-century mosaic of Pyramos and ending with the ever-popular Artist-designed Restrooms.
In the middle of the tour we gathered around Thomas Farrer’s 1865 landscape painting View of Northampton. The museum educator skillfully engaged the students: “What do you see in this picture? How would you describe the trees, the surface of the water, the sky? What buildings do you notice?”
Children’s responses were dwindling when one further question triggered an epiphany: “Does this place remind you of any place you have been before?” Silence. Suddenly a 12-year old boy in an oversized t-shirt jumped up and shouted: “YES! We have seen this before!! TODAY!!!” Everyone turned to stare at him, and back at the painting, as the thrill of discovery splashed across their faces and they felt the ripples of Paradise Pond.