From the Field

Preschool in an Art Museum

October 21, 2015

Can you imagine going to preschool in an art museum? Two AAMD museums, the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum and the Indianapolis Museum of Art, both have preschools on their campuses.

Lincoln Nursery School has been housed at the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum since 2012, when the preschool and the museum formalized a previously informal collaboration. LNS was looking for new space and deCordova wanted to reach more students, having seen a decline in more traditional field trips due to funding cuts, according to the Boston Globe.

Above: Lincoln Nursery School's Studio Red is invited to get a handle on the installation of Orly Genger's Red, Yellow, Blue rope sculpture in the Sculpture Park. Image courtesy of Lincoln Nursery School and deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum

LNS at the deCordova is based on the Reggio Emilia approach, from the city of Reggio Emilia in Northern Italy. According to the Reggio Emilia philosophy, early childhood learning should be experiential and exploratory. This approach works well at the deCordova, where LNS students have behind-the-scenes access to the museum’s 30-acre campus including a museum and sculpture park. deCordova and LNS staff collaborate to create and facilitate educational opportunities for the students, which ranges from working with artists exhibiting at the deCordova, and seeing large-scale exhibitions as they are installed and de-installed in the sculpture park.

"I think what I find most exciting about what they've been able to do, is the web of engagement they've created in the preschool through art," said Shari Tishman, a lecturer at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. "They are learning in a living, engaging way, thanks to their use of art."

The Indianapolis Museum of Art has now partnered with St. Mary's Child Center to start a preschool pilot program at the museum, modeled on deCordova and LNS’ partnership and also using the Reggio Emilia method. The program's goal is to support half of the students with full scholarships subsidized through grants and/or voucher support. Additionally, IMA will also provide free memberships to students and their families for one year. The IMA preschool’s pilot year began in August. You can read more about the IMA’s preschool on the museum’s website and in the Indy Star.

Learn more about Lincoln Nursery School at the decordova Sculpture Park and Museum on the Museum’s website, in the Boston Globe, and in AAMD’s Next Practices in Art Museum Education. Additionally, What does the imagination look like, an educational exhibit about the preschool, is on view through November 4 at the deCordova.


Top image: Lincoln Nursery School's Studio Red talking with artist Claire Ashley about her installation of thingtwo in the Museum. Image courtesy of Lincoln Nursery School and deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum