On November 12, the conference room at the Hawai‘i Department of Education was transformed into a large classroom as museum educators Jenny Engle and Betsy Robb (pictured above) revealed the first of a series of four art education posters that will soon hang in classrooms around the state.

“We watch people at the museum,” said Robb, explaining the philosophy behind the poster to the approximately 50 gathered DOE teachers and school administrators. “Often times they look at a work of art for about six seconds max, look at the label, glance back, think ‘OK, that makes sense,’ and move on.”

With that, Robb and Engle dimmed the lights, and instructed the group to “just look” at a projected image of Juliette May Fraser’s Lei Sellers, the painting that is featured on the debut poster. After about a minute and a half of silent observation, they opened the floor for a discussion about what everybody saw. Many saw an adolescent girl, disinterested in what appears to be the family business. Others saw a girl counting money they had made from a day of selling lei. Some looked for deeper meaning, questioning why each of the four figures in the piece faced different directions. Through the discussion Robb and Engle punctuated their point: when kids and adults really look at art and give time to it, they can have a truly meaningful experience.

The new poster features Juliette May Fraser's 'Lei Sellers'

The new poster features Juliette May Fraser’s ‘Lei Sellers’

Funded by the DOE, the posters are intended to encourage students to view art in a more substantive way, and to draw connections between art and the DOE Common Core Standards—science, math, social studies, and writing. Production of the classroom poster project was a team effort. A joint committee—including the DOE’s Petra Schatz and Gina Nakahara, Hanahaouli School’s Elila Levinson, and the museum’s Robb and Engle—wrote the poster’s content, while the Communications Departments of the museum and the DOE collaborated on the editing and design.

“I feel the museum offers students a more holistic learning experience,” said Chris Topher, after the poster training session. The K-6 elementary art and music teacher at Wai‘anae Elementary School feels “there is so much focus on math, science, social studies, etc, and by using the museum as a resource [we] can incorporate all of these while bringing art back into areas where it has been cut.”

The posters highlight just one aspect of the museum’s ongoing partnership with the DOE. “It’s nice to have partners like the museum who are willing to help teachers and offer time and resources,” say educational specialist and DOE representative Petra Schatz. “I hope that all the teachers will take their kids to the museum and use it as a resource to make connections to the Common Core.”

“We’re grateful to the DOE for spearheading this project,” says Robb, the museum’s curator of education. “It’s a great opportunity to get art into public school classrooms and work with our peers in the DOE.” 

Would you like more information? Contact Jenny Engle, the museum’s teacher liaison, at gro.muesumululonohnull@elgnej or 532-8771. Visit our website to learn more about resources available to teachers.