School at the museum, one day a week

Two groups of high school students from Le Vitrail school, located in the Rosemont district of Montreal, went to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA) every Thursday to discover the collections and current exhibitions, accompanied by of their teachers of French, mathematics, social sciences and visual arts.

I thought to myself that the Creation of Adamit was really a white man who had been created firstobserves the young Lohann, showing a painting he has just done, drawing inspiration from Michelangelo’s famous fresco. I thought to myself, why couldn’t it have been someone of color?

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Lohann, a first-year secondary student, created a work inspired by “The Creation of Adam”, by Michelangelo.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Philippe-Antoine Saulnier

the MMFA has been welcoming school groups for more than fifty years, during visits of a few hours in the presence of professionals in cultural mediation.

However, the idea of ​​having the same group every week is more recent. It is part of a pilot project launched in 2019 in collaboration with the Research Group on Education and Museums (GREM) at UQAM.

Works of art speak in all kinds of waysexplains Patricia Boyer, head of educational programs at the MMFA.

Allowing to ask ethical questions, to philosophize in front of the works, it is quite possible. We can have an opening on the world, we develop our empathy. »

A quote from Patricia Boyer, head of educational programs at the MMFA

This year, Le Vitrail school is pushing the project even further by allowing all of its students, from the beginning of elementary school to the end of high school, to visit a museum on a weekly basis, during two periods of six to eight weeks.

In addition to the MMFAseveral other institutions share the groups, including the Planétarium Rio Tinto Alcan, the Musée d’art contemporain (MAC), the PHI Foundation, the Musée des métiers d’art du Québec and the Musée Armand-Frappier.

Improve student engagement

The purpose of this pilot project is to address the engagement issues observed at Le Vitrail alternative school. Students who do not submit assignments, who start them and cannot finish themexplains the director, Chantal Laurin. So we arrived at the bulletin and the teachers had no observable traces to be able to evaluate the students.

The idea of ​​establishing long-term museum attendance was proposed by Anik Meunier, professor of museology at UQAM and director of the GREM. When we talk about commitment, we are talking about the pleasure of learning, the motivation to learnsays Ms. Meunier, who observed this practice during a trip to Cuba in 2006.

I was able to see that museums were welcoming schools in a project of the built heritage of historic Old Havana, she says. Some buildings were closed and the municipality had decided to relocate teachers and students to museums.

A student presents a model representing a bus.

The purpose of this pilot project is to address the engagement issues observed at Le Vitrail alternative school.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Philippe-Antoine Saulnier

The initiative of the Le Vitrail school, which adds to the museum-school project of MMFAis the subject of a research project of the GREMwhich aims to document the beneficial effects of this practice on student engagement.

The stays in the museums make it possible to approach various matters. As much the sciences are evaluated as the plastic arts and the social universe, explains the director of the school, Chantal Laurin. The teachers really took the elements of the training program of the Quebec school, which they secured, with the help of the mediators [des musées]to make projects that meet departmental requirements.

Already observable results

The first eight weeks of the pilot project already seem to be bearing fruit, says Professor Meunier. The high school students who went to the Planetarium, according to their teachers, were engaged from start to finish, over eight weeks, which doesn’t necessarily happen at school.she explains.

Philippe Lalonde, a social universe teacher who accompanied his first-grade students to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, also testifies to the benefits of the experience.

We saw a lot of works from several eras, he says. It confronts them with ideas. It is also an age where they are very sensitive, they are easily surprised by things, challenged. So there’s a lot of learning that takes place when you have the opportunity to enter that moment when they are shaken by a work, and to feed them with that.

I learned a lot from ancient historysays Lisa, a first-grade student. In the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, for example, they were forced to make paintings related to religion and they were much less free than today.

A student holds a painting of a flower in her hands. In the back, other students are seen working on tables.

Throughout the eight weeks, the students carried a notebook in which they were invited to write or draw, according to their imagination.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Philippe-Antoine Saulnier

Throughout the eight weeks, the students carried a notebook in which they were invited to write or draw, according to their imagination. I have never seen my students be so activesays Marie-Josée Villeneuve-Gagnon, visual arts teacher at Le Vitrail school. What surprised and dazzled me at the same time was to see them put themselves into creative action at any time, spontaneously, without being asked for anything.

The pilot project at Le Vitrail school is due to end next spring. At the moment, we have no funding, says the director, Chantal Laurin. Participating museum institutions welcome students free of charge.

The Société de transport de Montréal agrees to transport the students free of charge on its territory, she adds, but the school must assume the costs of transport outside the island. We are trying to apply for grants and we are waiting for some answersshe continues.

School at the museum, one day a week