Learning About Ourselves, Through Museums

One of my favorite aspects of my Bank Street education is the emphasis on learning through doing. For my program of study, this not only means placements within classrooms, but also plenty of experiences in museums and cultural institutions.

When you visit a museum, there is not only the opportunity to learn about new art, peoples, or history, but also yourself. You can draw connections between exhibits and your life, and discover new perspectives. Personally, I have found it extremely enriching to be able to visit museums with my cohort. They interject fresh ideas and inquiry into any subject matter.

Our first trip together was to the Weeksville Heritage Center, one of the few remaining historical sites of pre-Civil War African-American communities tucked away in Brooklyn. Hearing about the struggles of the people who created this community was inspiring, especially being able to stand in the very homes of the people who worked together to fight for justice.

On our tour of the houses, we were asked to find a buddy and discuss how the houses were similar and different to those that we grew up in. I thought that was a brilliant, simple exercise to help us get acquainted. There may not have been an organic opportunity to discuss such history with my peers. As John Dewey believed, “all human experience is ultimately social, it involves contact and communication.” What we learn or feel from an experience only deepens when we share it with others, and we gain insight from their experience as well.

Before long, as a student at Bank Street, you will become familiar with the work of John Dewey. An educational reformer in the late 1800s and early 1900s, Dewey was a major advocate of progressive education. He believed that all students perform better when they are afforded an active role in their curriculum. In other words, Dewey would not be happy to see rows of students completing pages of photocopied work.

I am sure that as I continue in my path at Bank Street I will become more and more steeped in experiential learning. My professors model the theory they teach, and in the trips they lead us on, show us how to lead our future students. It’s given me a whole new appreciation for museums and cultural institutions, for which I already thought I had a deep appreciation.

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