Hi, I’m Christine S. Kim. I’m here with two educators who I’m going to interview. Maybe you can start by introducing yourselves and speaking about the program you’ve been working with at the Lexington School for the Deaf.
AW — Hello, I’m Alexandria Wailes. I’m an educator here at the Whitney.
HE — Hello, I’m Hollie Ecker. I work at the Whitney Museum as well.
AW - The two of us have been working together with the Lexington School in Queens since November 2010-last fall/winter. The program entails us going into the school, into the classroom, meeting with the supervisors, to learn about the school’s curriculum: English, science, math, social studies. We meet with teachers and we decide which group of students specifically we will work with. We will meet with those students on nine different occasions. Those nine meetings are divided into three units—three meetings per unit. Each unit involves us, first, going into the classroom and having a discussion. Then we come here to the Museum and observe and discuss the artwork. And lastly we go back to the school where the students delve into their own artwork. It’s important that they have a hands-on experience; not just coming and learning, but going back and expressing themselves through their own art.
HE — For each unit, we will be working with the same group of students through the year because we want them to understand the Museum and feel “this is my museum. I can enter it any time and feel connected.”
AW – Yes, exactly. That involves the school attending the Museum. We encourage the students to observe two educators - both hearing and deaf with the ability to sign in a setting we’re not accustomed to at the Museum. It’s great to see the two of them communicating and collaborating together. It’s a nice role model or way of showing that the world out there has that too. It doesn’t exist just in the classroom.
HE—A nd for the two of us working together and developing a collegial relationship, it has been a very valuable and enriching experience.
AW — Yes, it’s been wonderful — a very enriching experience for me as well.
CK — What is the goal of the program, and can you speak about your experience as an educator thus far?
AW — Well, we have several goals. One is that we go into the school and look at what the students are doing in specific subjects, cognitive areas, and concepts. And then we weave them together with our contributions as museum educators. We then provide different supplies and materials from the Museum and combine them with the classroom’s content, bringing these resources together for the students to work with. Our second goal is that we encourage the students to come to the Museum and look at the works of art. They learn how to observe, critically analyze, and internalize the work, contemplating how to express themselves through their art.
HE — Exactly!
CK — What has been your experience as an educator?
AW — This program is relatively new. It just began this past fall, in November 2010. However, it was good to see the same group of students. One student in particular was like, “Well, I don’t know…It’s not important.” This was before the second visit. Then they came back, looked around the Museum, and went back to make works of art, expressing themselves through paint. As the class time was about to run out the student was saying, “Wait wait! I’m not finished!” She was quite inspired and she looked like a different person. The next time we came for the second unit, you could see the exuberance of this student. The experience really made an impact. If it struck a chord with one student, it may very well have with others, as well. It only takes one person to start with, right? It was beautiful to watch, just wonderful!
CK — How have the other kids responded to the art so far?
HE — I feel that from what I’ve seen, the students related their own experiences to the art itself. So the interpreting process became their own, too. It was really nice.