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Children who come to museums at a young age get to know the museum as a friend and build skills that support their growth and learning. Knowing this, it is our mission to create access to museums. This program, which started during the 2017-2018 school year with only a few classes, now serves 25 classes and an estimated 500 children by providing learning opportunities and hands-on art activities both in the classroom and at the Harn.
The impact made would not be possible without the cooperation of local schools and teachers. Phyllesha Norman, Head Start ESE Teacher from Alachua County Schools said during her visit with the children: “This is the first field trip that I’ve experienced with Head Start kids. They love it. They just love experiencing the museum. This is like a whole new world for them.”
One of the more notable highlights of this program is the look of sheer wonder as the students make their way throughout the museum. It is refreshing to experience the building, artwork and art-making from their joyful, enthusiastic perspectives. The program builds student vocabulary and fosters literacy engagement through the theme of the “Language of Art.” Overhearing students animatedly sharing their responses to docent-led questions is a great example of the evidence of their learning and the meaningful impact this program has on their lives.
Early Learning at the Harn provides multiple components that engage teachers, students and even caregivers. The program features a teacher workshop, in-class lesson, museum field trip, art activities at the Harn and a parent engagement program at each participating school. Stacey Hill, Head Start Site Coordinator from Alachua County Schools commented on the school-based portion, saying “the parents had an amazing time. They were engaged with their children. They were sitting down and doing art with their children.” Regarding the “ABC: Art by the Letter” book, developed by the Harn and given to all participants at no cost, Hill said “the parents mentioned to some of the teachers that they were able to read the book at night with their children—I really love that aspect of it.”
We hope to continue Early Learning at the Harn for years to come. This research-based program was developed by Brandi Breslin, former Coordinator of School and Educator Programs at the Harn, along with expert faculty and graduate students from UF’s Anita Zucker Center for Excellence in Early Childhood Studies. Early Learning at the Harn is supported annually by an anonymous foundation, EAD Corporation, Bank of America Charitable Foundation, Marc Gale and other generous donors. Our community partners include SWAG (Gainesville Southwest Advocacy Group) and the Early Learning Development and the Parent Academy at ACPS (Alachua County Public Schools). Through this program we help students find joy in experiencing art and in becoming life-long museum visitors who see the value of incorporating art into their everyday lives.
Video by Studio601.