“Wow, wow, and wow!” gushed Casilda Rippard, an art teacher at Castle High School, after her art class was the first to participate in Natural Selection, the new school tour and art project at Spalding House that focuses on life and environmental science on Nov. 4. “The art was marvelous, the view breathtaking, the activity fun, the staff welcoming, the facility gorgeous and the overall experience was Gold Star!”

How do we create a “Gold Star” tour at the museum? It takes a lot of people and teamwork.

In this case, it began with Aaron Padilla, director of Spalding House, curating HoMA Select, our exhibition that showcases 21 of the artworks featured in the museum’s new catalog Collection Highlights.

The great thing about art is that it can be interpreted in different ways,” says Aaron. “And from an education perspective, that’s huge because it allows us to augment our lessons and curricula with any painting or sculpture or object as long as connections can be made between the objects and ideas being presented.”

Students take a close look at 
Roman à Clef, a video recording and found object assemblage by artist Tony Oursler.

The museum’s team of educators went to work. As the museum’s Curriculum Specialist and a former teacher, I looked to Hawai‘i State Standards for inspiration. We hit on life and environmental sciences and knew we could make the connection. This tour connects artwork to organisms, traits, food chains and survival. To make sure the tour is relevant to work in the classroom, I worked with museum educators Ryan Higa and Sheryl Kramer to tailor the tour to match grade-level standards.

Once the tour draft was finished, the museum docents had a brainstorming session. Their knowledge of the artwork and experience leading students through the galleries is invaluable in helping to fine tune a school tour.

Students might look like they’re wrestling, but they are actually having fun using movement to recreate Henry Moore’s bronze sculpture Working Model for Stone Memorial. This is one of five of the engaging activities on the gallery tour.

Ryan, who is also an artist, took the lead on creating an art project to compliment the tour goals. “I’ve been wanting to do a shadow-puppet art project for a long time,” he says. “This science tour was the perfect connection. Students create an imaginary organism based on their experience in the gallery and then get to participate in a shadow puppet parade to showcase their creativity.” After many brainstorming sessions with talented museum art teachers, the shadow puppet lesson plans were complete.  

In the art studio, students create shadow puppets based on their experience in the gallery under the guidance of art instructor Julia Cornell.

On the day of the first tour, art teachers Julia Cornell and Noel Nicholas prepared in the studio classroom. “It’s so fun to be part of the process,” says Julia. “When the students come to experience art we never know where their creativity will take them.” Supporting the whole process was Sheryl Kramer, museum educator at Spalding House. “I enjoyed the collaborative process,” says Sheryl. “We worked on something that students will have so much fun doing they won’t even realize they are learning.”

Then students get to use their creations to put on a puppet show in the Cades Pavillion.

Docents and husband-and-wife team Lizzy and Dwight Lowry volunteered for the debut tour. “It’s always exciting to do it first and see how kids react to things,” says Lizzy. “It doesn’t come alive until you take students on a tour. The interaction is what brings the art to life.”

But don’t take it from us. Read a teacher’s review:

The tour was excellent! The gallery tour was fun with interactive sections and the students were exposed to internationally recognized art. The information was presented in a way that was fun and educational. The handson project was super fun! The students enjoyed doing the shadow puppet lesson and really enjoyed the culminating show to see all the students work. The instructors were passionate and showed many examples and encouraged students as a whole and individually. I highly recommend this tour for all levels of educators.

Mucho Mahalo,
Casilda Rippard

Teachers, you can also take advantage of the FREE K-12 Natural Selection tour that runs now through June 25, 2017.

Visit the guided school tours page to sign up or get more information about Natural Selection. 

This exhibition is made possible with generous support from the Louis L. Borick Foundation.