“Then the pernicious charm of Italy worked on her, and, instead of acquiring information, she began to be happy.”
Edward Morgan Forster, A Room with a View
“Then the pernicious charm of Italy worked on her, and, instead of acquiring information, she began to be happy.”
Edward Morgan Forster, A Room with a View
Below are quotations from the 2017 IKEA catalog, followed by some reflections on my practice as a family educator in museums. #deadserious
Imperfect is perfect enough: The “perfect” dinner party doesn’t exist…Friends, family and neighbors are all invited. Push together the tables, put a handful of flatware in a jar and grab any seat you can find. This is a family-style dinner where it’s ok to spill–and put your elbows on the table. (12)
The no-rules family dinner: These days, the family dinner is whatever – and wherever – we want it to be. But there’s one thing we can all agree on – that being together is what we care about. A comfy dining spot we never want to leave is where we tell our stories, create memories and throw out the old rules. So eat at the table. Eat under the table. Eat on the sofa. Or eat in a tent. As long as it’s together. (14)
Share a meal – anywhere: …The days of “have to” are over. Go ahead and eat around a coffee table. Sit on the sofa. Or on the floor. Because it doesn’t really matter where we eat – just that we get to be together. (24)
Chaos-free company: The living room is a busy place. It’s a snug spot for relaxing, a hub for socializing as a family, and the room of choice for everyone to do their own thing…Comfortable yet clever seating for every body in the house, and smart storage for tidying up diverse interests creates space for what truly matters – getting all those bodies together. (88)
The passion project table: The dining table has long been used for a lot more than just eating. So we’re breaking with tradition and renaming this one the “project table” – a hub of the home where everyone gathers to play and work (a little). Here are all of the books, supplies and good lighting needed to plan a far away trip, do some homework or make something beautiful. It’s a convenient, cozy spot to get creative. (18)
The dream dining area: The dining area is where we gather – to share a meal, tell stories and make grand plans. It’s important to get it just the way you want it because the atmosphere helps create these moments – big and small… (21)
Stress-free socializing: …It’s the no-expectations dinner party, where it’s ok to put your guests to work. Everyone cooks together in an atmosphere that’s casual and cozy – a pressure-less affair that allows you to be the guest too. (36)
Cooking is the best part of the meal: In this family kitchen, there are never too many cooks. All of the counter space can be found on the big island, a place to stand elbow-to-elbow while each peels, chops and dices up their part of the meal…It ensures that everyone can be involved in a family ritual that brings us closer – and creates some messy memories. (46)
Climbing and cuddling: Precious moments with our kids are the memories that stay with us. But in the everyday, it can be hard to find time for those moments. So we came up with an unconventional fix. We brought the bunk bed out of the kids’ room and put it in the living room – giving it a refined and mature aesthetic. It’s part jungle gym and part cozy sofa, a piece that lets kids be kids and adults be adults – together. (90)
Tidy toys, happy parents: The living room is the together room – a place for parents to unwind and kids to play. But in many homes, playtime is when the toy box explodes with books, blocks and stuffed bears. Handsome toy storage can be hung low or placed on the floor, making it easier for kids to reach. This way clean-up can happen as a family – a moment of togetherness that also restores a bit of sanity. (116)
Small acts, big change: Most of us are aware of the impact our daily lives can have on the planet, but “being sustainable” feels like a big job. The thing we often forget, though, is that we’re not supposed to do it alone. The key is finding small ways to do our part. Because when we add up these small acts, that’s when the big change really happens. (61)
Why good design is democratic: …Democratic design helps us raise the bar for making better products for more people – better because they’re developed with an understanding that people want things that work and make life easier (function), that are beautiful (form), demand value for money (quality), care about the planet (sustainability), and are affordable (low price). (171)
I mean, that’s it, right?
I’d like to point you to a podcast that my friend Jenny Gillett and I have created.
Open Admission is a podcast that explores museums and the people who work in them.
Check it out on our blog and on iTunes (search for “open admission”)!
A few months ago, I was invited to attend a new lecture series called Selah, a program of the Janet & Jake Farber Teen Experiential Educator Network. Selah brings teen educators high-quality speakers, discussing tangible, needs-reflective topics about the field of Jewish Experiential Education. The goal is to grow the community and encourage greater knowledge-sharing and relationship-building between the teen educators across the Los Angeles geographic and Jewish landscapes.
The February lecture was given by Dr. Mizuko Ito, who spoke about Teens in the Digital Age. Dr. Ito is a cultural anthropologist specializing in learning and new media, particularly among young people in Japan and the US. Her current research focuses on how to support socially connected learning experiences for young people. With the support of the MacArthur Foundation, she helped launch the Connected Learning Alliance, dedicated to realizing a world where all young people have equitable access to learning opportunities that are social, participatory, driven by personal needs and interests, and oriented toward educational, civic and economic opportunity. Additionally, she chaired a MacArthur Foundation research network on Connected Learning with an interdisciplinary group of researchers seeking to study and design for connected learning environments.
Here are some of the questions and puzzles that Dr. Ito raised in her lecture at Selah:
These are some crowd-sourced tips for supporting digitally-engaged kids:
My biggest takeaway from Dr. Ito’s lecture is this: It’s not a capacity problem. It’s a matchmaking problem. No one organization will meet all of the needs of all learners. I am energized by the idea that the Skirball fits into a landscape of informal learning in LA. Even thought we don’t have the staff capacity or budget to launch a super in-depth teen program right now (compared with some of our peer institutions nationwide, who are doing amazing and awe-inspiring work with teens), Dr. Ito’s lecture helped me re-frame the work we are doing. I am looking forward to deepening the connection between the interests of our current teen corps members and staff expertise/museum resources while moving the teen volunteer program into closer alignment with the Skirball’s mission (particularly around social justice, equity, and access).
Caillebotte and Monet at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art’s ongoing exhibition Degas to Chagall: Important Loans from the Armand Hammer Foundation. Um, hello Hammer frames.
Also at the Jewish Museum: Repetition and Difference. Archival, contemporary, thoughtful, pretty damn brave.
Anthony Discenza and Peter Straub‘s maddening installation about “the obscure 19-century artists’ movement known as Das Beben” at the Contemporary Jewish Museum. I read through it, paused, went back to the beginning, sat down for a bit, smiled, frowned, and then watched a few other people do the same. We all discussed, and then agreed that there is a 90% chance that Das Beben is not real. But I still don’t know. I still. Don’t. Know.
Power and pathos at the Getty, obvs.
Creamsicle-colored plaster surrogates at MOCA.
Toshio Shibata’s giant, textured photos of the built landscape at PEM a few years ago.
Rebecca Baumann’s colorful, emotional roller-coaster of a clock. (And the rest of Baumann’s practice, which I wrote about here.)
There was a golden period of three months or so when I was training to be a volunteer at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. Unfortunately/fortunately, I wasn’t able to continue on as a volunteer since I got an amazing position in the education department at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles.
Before leaving Boston, I took a few trips to the Gardner to say goodbye to some of my favorites. So here, recorded for posterity: my personal itinerary of the Gardner.
This is not the best picture of the Courtyard. It is nigh impossible to get the best picture of the Courtyard, because no picture can capture all of the hidden nooks and crannies, the soaring Palazzo walls, the giant glass roof, the steamy greenery, the shock of white marble behind orange blossoms, the nasturtiums cascading from the balconies, the quiet echo of conversation on every floor, the scratching of pencils on sketch paper, the sighs of visitors walking in and then stopping cold, the smell of old stone and fresh blooms and clover and ferns…
Anyway, this is not what you see when you first walk in. (You actually enter behind those arches on the left.) I love to stop immediately upon entering the courtyard and notice the change in light and temperature. Once I’m adjusted, I can then look around me. But only after a moment. The glass tunnel between the new wing and the historic palace is a good transition space, but it’s not quite enough. That light-dark-light thing gets me every time: the bright natural and LED light of the new wing, the dark shadows of the side entrance to the historic palace, and finally that beautiful filtered light that’s just green with vegetation and pink from the Palazzo walls and shadowy from the arcade of arches. #dead
Now that photography is allowed in the Courtyard, maybe someone will get the perfect shot.
Sargent, El Jaleo
Yea, yea, everyone goes to see El Jaleo. It’s good. Legitimately good. The sense of movement, the chiaroscuro, that dude snoozing (or is he singing?), the unnatural pose of the dancer, the looming shadows. It’s good.
El Jaleo is huge. It’s also fitted into a nook built expressly for it, surrounded by objects chosen to highlight the colors and materials and textures, next to a mirror that reflects it and extends it. Mrs. Gardner (in her infinite wisdom) sort of stole this piece from her family member and built a whole environment around it. Basically, I go to see El Jaleo in its place. You know, it’s good. But it’s so much better in its own place.
I didn’t give this stele a second glance until I took the audio tour. I don’t remember exactly what made me stop and look closer, but oh boy, there’s a whole story going on with this serene-looking beaut. Check out the backside, featuring an assumption-ish scene from the Lotus Sutra.
There is a group of four reliefs on the wall of the Courtyard right outside the Spanish Cloister, but images are not available on the Gardner’s website. (But you can find them on pp. 62-64 of Sculpture in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, available free online!) They look like the symbols of the four evangelists, except one is a deer and one is a basilisk. They are kind of mysterious in their provenance. (Maybe from the Duomo? I’m going to perpetuate that rumor.) (JK, the catalog authors are pretty sure they’re from the church of S. Lucia in Gaeta.) I like those.
Scenes of the Passion
As a former medievalist, I can’t not stop at a Passion scene. This one, though, is all about the clothes for me: look at that drapery! The hose! The shoes! The hats! I love to paint it in with my mind to get the full fifteenth century effect (maybe some mi-parti going on?). The whole thing looks as though it’s about to spring into rowdy, loud, technicolor action.
I didn’t quite get how important this sarcophagus was until I listened to the audio tour. (TL;DR: Do the audio tour.) It traveled from Athens to Rome in the 3rd century and lived in the Palazzo Farnese and Villa Sciarra until the 19th century, inspiring Baroque and Mannerist artists with its optic elongation and fabulous pagan imagery. As you pass from medieval architectural ornaments in the Courtyard to cinquecento paintings one flight up, it’s worth stopping to marvel at this antique treasure.
I did a nice long looking session with this sarcophagus one afternoon, and the relationships between the figures came alive. Sorting out the arms was a task in itself, and the gazes, too, are all mixed up and interconnected. It’s ridiculously expressive and dramatic and human (/demi-godish). And funny. (That guy to the right of center pulling down the maenad’s drapery: priceless.)
I tried seeing it the way Renaissance artists would see it. I didn’t even get close. But the effort in itself was rewarding.
Reposted from the Skirball education staff blog.
What is mindfulness, anyway?
Mindfulness is nonreactive awareness and acceptance of the present moment.
Let’s break that down:
Mindfulness is different from-but related to-Buddhist meditation. The secular practice of mindfulness is a research-based set of approaches for bringing attention to the present in order to lower stress, improve health, and increase self-awareness. Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program, which he launched at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in 1979, was one of the first secular mindfulness practices to be adopted widely in the United States. Since then, thousands of studies have documented the positive impacts of mindfulness, and hundreds of programs have been launched in schools, prisons, hospitals, veterans centers, and even museums!
Let Jon Kabat-Zinn tell you more:
Mindfulness in formal education
The research has spoken: mindful awareness has a positive impact on students’ attention, executive function, emotional regulation, pro-social dispositions, social skills, and self-compassion. There is an increasing number of programs offering mindfulness instruction to students and school-aged children.
The Inner Kids program was first taught in LA schools throughout the 2000s, and continues to be used in schools and other educational spaces. Inner Kids uses games, activities, and direct instruction to teach the New ABCs: Attention, Balance, and Compassion. A randomized controlled study of the program led by UCLA found that this program can have positive impacts on students with executive function difficulties. Inner Kids co-founder Susan Kaiser Greenland teaches parents how to cultivate mindfulness with their children in her book The Mindful Child. Annaka Harris, an Inner Kids volunteer, posted a free set of guided meditations for children that focus on “friendly wishes,” mindful hearing, and mindful breathing.
The Hawn Foundation (as in Goldie) created a program called MindUP. MindUP “teaches social and emotional learning skills that link cognitive neuroscience, positive psychology and mindful awareness training utilizing a brain centric approach.” The 15 sequenced lessons are aligned with all state standards (including Common Core!!) and support academic performance and personal growth.
Mindful Schools is a national non-profit providing curriculum training and professional development to classroom teachers and educators. To see the Mindful Schools program in action, check out the short film Healthy Habits of Mind below.
Other school-based programs include Mindfulness in Schools, CARE for Teachers at the Garrison Institute, Modern Mindfulness, and Inward Bound Mindfulness Education. Some research centers studying mindfulness and youth include the Centre for Mindfulness Research and Practice at Bangor University, the Stanford Early Life Stress Research and Pediatric Anxiety Program, the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds at University of Wisconsin, and the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley.
# Ways to Teach Mindfulness to Kids: A Listicle Roundup
Here is a roundup of listicles offering some tips for teaching mindfulness to kids at home and out in the world. There are lots of variations on mindful breathing, mindful hearing, and mindful eating activities. There are some unique ones in there, too: I think my favorite is the Spiderman meditation!
Example activity: Mind Jars
Mind jars are simple tools to illustrate basic concepts in mindfulness. The glitter in the jar represents your thoughts and emotions. When you shake the jar, you can watch your thoughts and feelings whirl around (like when you’re feeling stressed, overwhelmed, or upset). As the glitter slowly settles down, you can feel yourself calm down!
Meagan Estep, Teacher Programs Coordinator at the Phillips Collection in DC, wrote this blog post about making mind jars to open a gallery experience with families.
There are loads of instructions for making your own mind jar out there on the interwebs.
But let the kiddos themselves tell you about mind jars…
Books for kids:
Books for families and educators:
Want to learn more?
The UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center is a great resource for learning more. They teach a 6-week introductory practice class, host free meditation podcasts on their website, and guide free weekly drop-in meditations all over campus.
Direct your eye right inward, and you’ll find
A thousand regions in your mind
Yet undiscovered. Travel them, and be
Expert in home-cosmography.
-Henry David Thoreau
For mature readers, a meditation lolz: