Eighth-graders engage with art at Wellin Museum

Docent gestures to group of students in front of a display of artwork

Lessons in chemistry, physics and computer science might not be what you’d expect to find at an art gallery. But Herkimer Jr./Sr. High School eighth-graders found this, and more, during a recent field trip to the Ruth and Elmer Wellin Museum of Art at Hamilton College.

In addition to viewing paintings, murals and drawings by Julia Jacquette in an exhibit titled “Unrequited and Acts of Play,” Herkimer students were guided through four activities that touched on themes explored in Jacquette’s work.

In the first of four stations, students spoke with Hamilton College students who had been part of a project to turn smaller works of art into giant murals.

“The students got to engage directly with the art,” explained eighth-grade Spanish teacher Kerry Reppel, who accompanied students on the trip. “They learned a lot about collaboration, and saw a lot of 21st-century skills in action.”

From there, students entered a huge room filled with large foam blocks, an interactive computer projection, and building materials that resembled giant Tinker Toys.

“They were let loose to just play,” Reppel said with a smile. “And it was wonderful — they were fully engaged with it, working together peacefully and collaborating.”

A third station gave students the chance to draw on ceramic tiles, and drip a solvent onto the ink to watch the chemical reaction that formed. Finally, Reppel’s students were taken to the auditorium, where they were shown images of Spanish works of art, and asked to reflect on them.

The activities are part of the Wellin’s outreach programs to schools, which aim to integrate the museum into interdisciplinary studies.

Amber Geary Spadea, who is the Andrew W. Mellon Educator for School and Community Programs at the Wellin Museum, said the museum works hard to provide field trips that enrich students’ understanding of what they learn in the classroom.

“We try to tie directly into whatever’s being taught in the school,” Spadea said. “We love to be challenged, and we love working with Herkimer!”

“It was really nice for the students to see such a gorgeous college atmosphere,” Reppel observed. “The whole experience was just thoroughly enjoyable. I think everyone really got a lot out of it.”

Look for more photos from the students’ trip on the Herkimer Central School District’s Facebook page.