With the Obama Administration’s increasing attention on young children and learning, new research into brain science shows more than ever that experiences children have with adults and creativity early in life set the stage for healthy development and wellness. Museums can play an important role in the development of young children. They are sites for open-ended conversation, tactile experiences and exploration, according to child development expert Sharon E. Shaffer, author of a forthcoming book on how and why to better engage young children in museums. USF’s Marjorie Schwarzer has served as an editorial advisor on parts of the book.
This summer, in the spirit of early learning and discovery, Thacher Gallery welcomed young children and their parents to the Kalmanovitz Hall Rooftop Sculpture Gallery as part of a Family Fun Day for USF faculty and staff. Thacher Gallery director Glori Simmons, along with USF Museum Studies graduate students Leah Belcher and Merrill Amos, adapted a tour of the sculpture terrace for all-ages, combining Visual Thinking Strategies and dramatic play to encourage active and up-close explorations of the sculptures. The tour ended with a form of charades where teams of adults and children became sculptures.
Museum Studies graduate student MaryKaren Mrowka, an expert in pre-school education who is currently developing pre-school programs at the University of California Botanical Garden, joined in, leading conversations with the children about how the sculptures expressed emotion and gesture.
Glori Simmons add: “I especially enjoyed seeing parents (my colleagues) working with their kids and each other to explore the sculptures on the terrace. It was rewarding to be able to incorporate play with art at work.”