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Science and Art video conferences by the Cleveland Museum of Art

Written by Ben Newsome on June 12th, 2014.      0 comments

After an inspiring time at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History I headed over to the Cleveland Museum of Art to visit Dale Hilton and her distance education team. The Cleveland Museum of Art holds a fantastic array of collections from Egyptian exhibitions and Roman relics to medieval weaponry and renaissance tapestries all the way through to contemporary photography… you could spend a very long time here! Through Dale the museum has been prolific in its digital outreach and has been doing so since 1999. With variety of art, history, language and STEM workshops the museum easily reaches 500 connections per year to schools throughout the USA and beyond.

Cleveland Museum of Art

One of the reasons I wanted to visit was to find out how the museum mixes art and science in a video conference setting. In teacher professional development sessions I’ve often argued that science doesn’t have to be run by itself and that mixing it up produces richer meaning for students; it was great to see this in action! Using the on-hand artifacts, a document camera and a chroma-key the remote students can explore STEM outcomes such as the water cycle, rock cycle origami and tile tessellations and still connect with core artistic messages of the museum. One of my favourites is the simple machines lesson whereby the museum educator discusses medieval trebuchets and ballistae and has the connected students create their own mini-catapult!

Where possible the Cleveland Museum of Art connects with in-house experts on art curation and preservation, discussing the chemical treatment needed to bring artwork to showroom quality. The team has also run video conferences for the visually impaired whereby tactile materials such as pottery & Travertine are sent to students for them to describe in detail. Such programs are highly rewarding for the museum presenters, the school teachers and participating students as it encourages strong communication and descriptive skills; in fact all three groups learn from each other as they share their own experiences and perspectives.

Whilst at the museum I got to watch a video conference on ‘Knights, Castle & Kings‘ which was presented by Arielle Levin with technical support by Kevin Kelly at the A/V mixing desk. Arielle presented in front of a green screen whilst a variety of artworks and animations were portrayed to the remote site. The context of the lesson was in linking the artworks to the lifestyles and beliefs of the middle ages with Arielle constantly interacting with students throughout. The animated introduction using Google Earth as a world view zooming into walking through the galleries was a nice touch!

Arielle and Kevin presenting Knights, Castle & Kings video conference

A major highlight of the visit was when Dale asked me to join her new intern in viewing several pieces of 500 year old European armour. Donning white gloves I was lucky enough to carefully hold plate steel gauntlets, a chest plate, a crossbow shaft and a full visor helmet. Certainly not what I expected but very much appreciated! The pieces were part of the Art to Go outreach program, an outreach program designed to get museum exhibitions to schools throughout Ohio.

Holding 500 year old armour!

All in all I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to Cleveland. Unfortunately I ran out of time to visit the Rock Hall and the Pro Football Hall of Fame but I will catch up with them after this Churchill Fellowship. My next stop will be Rochester, New York to visit the Monroe #1 BOCES team as they present video conferences for both the Challenger Learning Center and the Bathysphere Underwater Biological Laboratory. So much more to see and do! Looking forward to it :)

All the best,


Ben Newsome
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