Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Maurice Sendak

It happened again.  Four years into this experience and I still get chills when I realize how deep and layered and truly awesome the experience of learning is.

Last week’s Wednesday Adventure was a trip to New Britain’s Museum of American Art, a little gem tucked away in central Connecticut, where Connecticut resident Maurice Sendak’s original works of art are currently on display.  

For this trip the girls and I decided (well, I decided but they agreed) to make a project.  

We visited the library and pulled many books that were either written and illustrated or just illustrated by Maurice Sendak.  The girls made photocopies of the covers and using the cover like the background of an art journal page, wrote a connection they have to the book (text to text, text to life, text to self).   

I made some notebooking pages to take with us to the museum.  I wanted the girls to find favorite pieces of art, write a biography of Maurice Sendak, and be able to express why his artwork is relevant.  

As we were working on the biography part of the project we discovered that Mr. Sendak’s parents were immigrants from Poland.  In 1941 his parents were notified that the Nazi’s completely wiped out the village in which they immigrated from, where many of his relatives still resided.  Some were sent to concentration camps, but most were killed. 

As we read this we made a text to life connection.  We just finished reading Hannah’s Suitcase, the true story of Hannah Brady, a young Jewish girl who was a victim of the Holocaust and whose story was brought to life by a Japanese teacher and her students.  This was a strong connection.  I just did not realize how strong it truly was.

As we were completing the museum created scavenger hunt, I came across a plaque describing how Maurice came to collaborate with Jim Henson and discovered a love of set and costume design and began designing librettos including Brundibar, a children’s opera that was performed at Theresienstadt Concentration Camp........where Hannah Brady spent part of her childhood.  

I don’t know if words can quite convey how deeply this touched us.  You can’t plan this.  You can’t know in advance that one thing you stumble upon will lead you to a deeper level of appreciation and understanding.  As we connect our learning it is no longer just a book, or just a lecture or just a documentary, it is now part of us.  Hannah Brady is part of us.  Maurice Sendak is now directly connected to Hannah Brady.  My girls and I will never forget this.  This bit of learning, of education, of enlightenment and understanding changed us in a tangible way.   This is life learning.  This is interest led learning.  This is project based learning.  This is unschooling.  No matter what “label” you give it, it is not serendipity (like I used to think), it is not coincidence, and it is not random.  It is the active desire to fill your brain with knowledge.  It is the conscious decision to dig deeper and gain wisdom and hopefully understanding.  It is true learning and it gives me chills.  


Karen said...

This is so awesome!! It gave me chills to read it. What an amazing experience for you and the girls. I love doing a bit of research before we go. It makes it so much better to see it with some sort of background. Keilee just looked over my shoulder and said, "Hey that looks like "Where the Wild Things Are". :)

Jessica said...

The great thing is that the experience did not end at the museum. I have a follow up post coming about finding the book Brundibar and the project they are working on..... We just have to set aside some time to finish the project!

Aunt said...

It gives me chills, too. If only public schools could, somehow, incorporate these experiences into their program. Kids might, then learn instead of just being "taught". Oh dear!!

Shel said...

We have been living this amazing lifestyle for seven years now (since the moment my Grace was born) and each day I am eternally grateful for it and the many blessings that are a result of walking down this amazing path! I thank my lucky stars all the time and can't imagine life any other way!

Also, I had no idea this museum existed! I shall add it to our list of places to visit! Thanks, Jess! xo

Jessica said...

The more the government controls education (teachers) the less creativity and innovation there will be in classrooms. You made learning come to life. There were times when I did. Now you hear that teachers are working harder than they ever have and sadly, they are not designing fabulous lessons, their time is spent reporting. Children do not come in one size fits all. Education should not be delivered that way.

This was one of those things though that could not be planned, really. We read picture books to prepare for the trip. Only if I had read his biography could I have known the connection to Hannah Brady and in a way I am glad I did not know. That moment of discovery was pure magic.

Jessica said...

It is worth veering off onto Rt 9 when you are heading down I91. It is small but has great works of art. A perfect place for a child to experience an art museum. We ate at the cafe which has some organic and farm to table offerings (and really yummy homemade sugar cookies...)

Sandra said...

These sorts of connections are amazing - almost more so when they are totally unexpected. As a result anything learnt stays with you forever.

Jessica said...

Karen @ Homeschool Girls sent me a few links that I will share. The greatest thing is that once you have been exposed to something, not only does it become a part of you but you keep bumping into more information here and there that deepens you understanding. So unlike school where the concept ends at the end of the chapter.

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