CHAMPAIGN — Krannert Art Museum's WAM — Week at the Museum — for elementary school children is here to stay, says museum director Kathleen Harleman,
The museum this week received a boost to expand KAM-WAM, as it's called, in the form of a $20,000 grant from the Lumpkin Family Foundation, a private foundation created in 1953 from the estate of Besse A. Lumpkin of Mattoon.
Because KAM-WAM is primarily museum- and school-staff driven, thus relatively inexpensive, the grant money will go a long way toward expanding KAM-WAM as well as two spinoffs — KAM—BAM and KAM—JAM, Harleman said.
Ann Sautman, director of education for the museum, said BAM is a one-day visit — "something quick and intense; think Emeril Lagasse throwing garlic in the pan" — and KAM-JAM is a longer stay.
Since KAM—WAM was piloted in September 2011, more than 850 students in grades 3-5 have spent a week at the museum. They come from several public elementary schools in Champaign and Urbana.
During each of those five days, the students are at the museum from 8:30 a.m. or 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., using its collection to learn about art and other subjects they would be studying in school, including science, math and history.
"They get the full spectrum of state standards," Harleman said.
For example, the students study the historical and social context of the art, as well as events that were going on during the periods the art was made.
Students also develop social skills, in that the teachers and museum staff leading the program have each one tell what he or she thinks about the art, while the others listen.
"The major things I've seen is the students become closer to each other, and tend to be nicer to each other and listen to each other, even after they get back from the museum," said Rusty Clevenger, an art teacher at Wiley and Prairie schools in Urbana. "The museum sets the precedence of everybody's opinion counts."
The art teacher said one Wiley fourth-grader who had been extremely reserved was "glowing" after WAM. "The rest of the school year he was totally animated," Clevenger said.
On the Friday night of each WAM, students spend an hour or two at the museum with their parents, displaying their art on exhibit in the museum's lower level.
"One cool thing we see is the students walk their parents around the art museum and tell them literally about what they see," Clevenger said. "It's amazing to see what they learned that week and how they articulate it."
Harleman said KAM-WAM has received wonderful support from the Champaign and Urbana school districts, which supply the bus transportation and substitute teachers for the teachers at the museum.
She said the museum plans to seek even more grant money, including federal funds, to continue KAM-WAM. That will require the museum to submit evidence of how the programs help children.
"We're in the process of doing some evaluations," Harleman said. "It's kind of tricky because you don't know when or how the impact takes place. It could be years later, when some of the students decide to go into the arts."