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Partnerships in reform.

Goals 2000 represents a simple agenda: to enable American students to attain academic excellence by the turn of the century. One of its greatest promises lies in the potential to create partnerships between cultural institutions and schools.

Schools and museums have much to learn from one another and much to accomplish together toward educational reform. In a time of diminishing resources, this kind of partnership makes the most of what schools and museums have to offer. The skillful use of museums as teaching resources transforms them into functional "libraries," where all the sources are primary, and where everyone can learn to "read" art. Museums serve as a pathway to learning that is active, outcome oriented, necessarily interdisciplinary and naturally multicultural.

History Comes Alive

Partnerships between teachers and museum educators, like one recently established between Buckingham Browne & Nichols School (BB&N) in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, create exciting learning experiences. The visual environment of an art museum engages the attention of students and teachers in ways that traditional classroom work cannot. History comes alive for students when they gather around portraits of careworn Roman citizens or elegant Chinese court attendants. Any object can become a starting point for a range of conversations, from the technology involved in creating the object and the politics of the time and place in which the object was produced, to the viewer's personal response.

At the museum, students are learning to observe carefully and think creative. In turn, teachers are extending their teaching repertoire by developing lessons centered on the museum's objects. Sketching and writing activities, worksheets and other hands-on materials help students focus on important concepts. The collaborative process of designing those materials enriches the planning process and the professional lives of teachers.

Enhancing Understanding

Enhancing understanding among parents is another possibility when cultural institutions open their doors to schools. For example, when their projects were completed, BB&N students brought their parents to the museum to show them their favorite works of art and to explain how they related to their studies.

The most important outcome of school-museum collaborations is that they bring people educators work together to develop curricula for a broad range of disciplines, and in a variety of museum settings. Museum educators help teachers create lessons and units built around museum visits. Teachers serve as advisors for the museum's teacher workshop series designed to help other teachers create more effective museum experiences.

Funding for Partnerships

Making these partnerships work requires a strong commitment on the part of each organization. Two other elements are crucial: time and money. The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) passed by the House of Representatives includes a Community Arts Partnership provision that authorizes funding for partnerships between schools and community organizations in order to develop curricula and other services. The provision is a key element in the restructuring of American education.

The greatest hope offered by Goals 2000 is that it will promote approaches to education at the local level. Historically, partnerships between schools and cultural organizations have fostered these new approaches and have created exciting communities of learners. By forging vital links between schools and the surrounding communities, partnerships demonstrates what is possible when we all work together to create the best possible education for our children.

Jackie Cossentino is the coordinator of the Buckingham Browne & Nichols School/Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, collaboration and Margaret Burchenal is Head of School Programs at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Massachusetts.
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Title Annotation:art education reform
Author:Burchenal, Margaret
Publication:School Arts
Date:May 1, 1995
Words:580
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