On a beautiful fall Friday in Springfield, MO, members of the Ozarks Teacher Corps, Springfield Art Museum’s Placeworks programs, and other community members gathered at Springfield Art Museum to learn more about place-based education. Leslie Cook, of the Teton Science School’s Place Network program, guided the group in exploring the connections of place and art.
To do this, Leslie situated place-based education in the context of the museum. How can the core tenets of place-based education—ecology, economy, and culture—be reflected in the exhibitions on display in Springfield Art Museum? Ozarks Teacher Corps and Placeworks members wandered through the galleries, pondering on questions like, “How is our connection to place expressed through art? How does art connect to place? How can art show a place and what stands out about a place?”.
Coming back into the room, folks gathered around the large tables to discuss their reactions to the activity.
“I felt like I saw the stories of my students in that exhibit,” says Joaly Ray of Forsyth High School, reflecting on an exhibit on homelessness. “I just want to know what I can do to help them”.
For some Ozarks Teacher Corps members, this was their first time connecting the place-based education model with art. “We’ve always learned about place-based education in the context of the outdoors, but this really expands what it means,” says Loni Johnson of Drury University. Other teachers reflected that this activity helped to deepen their understanding of place.
During lunch, the 2020 Missouri Teacher of the Year, Melissa Grandel of Fordland High School, spoke with the group about her work. She shared with the group the advantages of teaching in rural places, such as building more lasting relationships with students to flexibility with lesson plans and classroom content. To hear more from Melissa, watch our short video below.
After lunch, the Placeworks program shared with the group more information about their work. The group, housed in both the Springfield Art Museum and Community Foundation of the Ozarks, offers working artists the opportunity to support a variety of artistic projects in Missouri schools. They reflected on previous projects and offered help on any and all project ideas from the teachers in the room, from field trips to the Springfield Art Museum to providing direct artist consultation for long-term projects like plays and murals.
The day ended on a positive note, with folks sharing their gratitude for the others in the room and the curriculum brought by Leslie Cook. It was a great success to gather artists, teachers, students, and administrators to grow in understanding and build connections. Thank you Community Foundation of the Ozarks, Teton Science Schools, Springfield Art Museum, and the Ozarks Teacher Corps, for the exciting day!