Today, the students dove in to leading their first inquiry conversations around works of art: At the start of class, the students recapped their visit to the Rubin Museum and discussed what they’d learned from the teens there in terms of best practices for giving tours. The conversation led directly into the concept of “inquiry”–engaging audiences with artwork by asking them open-ended questions to facilitate discussion. After thinking about it, the students realized that they learned best–in a museum or classroom setting–not when being lectured to but when their instructors asked them questions to help them figure out material for themselves. One of the students, Laddy, articulated one of the other benefits of the inquiry method in a great way. She said, “When a teacher is lecturing, they’re the only active ones. But by asking questions, everyone gets to be active and participate.”
After brainstorming more than thirty brilliant questions one might ask an audience about the painting “The Peaceable Kingdom” by Edward Hicks, organizing those questions into categories and discussing which questions one might ask at the beginning, middle and end of a conversation, Vivian volunteered to be the first student to test out her inquiry skills. She bravely stood up in front of her peers and asked one of the most important questions one can ask in a museum: “What do you see?”
Yasmin took over from there. She started out a little unsure but within moments was expertly gesturing around the painting, asking follow-up questions, and synthesizing students’ comments like a seasoned educator. Despite knowing nothing about the background or history behind the painting, she was able to lead the students to discover its meaning. (Although the students all quickly agreed that they’ll feel much more comfortable leading conversations when they’ve done some more serious research!)
From there, the students broke into two groups; Walid, Scarlet, Lia and Ana all had the chance to lead an inquiry conversation. All of the Teen Docents did an incredible job coming up with thoughtful, thought-provoking questions and, judging by all the laughter filling the galleries, had a great time doing it.