September 21, 2018

Florence Griswold Museum Launches Online Learning Portal for Educators

To engage students about the painting process, a video featuring McKenzie West, an art student at the Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts was filmed on location at the Museum by the staff of website designer Julia Balfour, LLC.

The Florence Griswold Museum in Old Lyme, Conn., has launched SEE/change, an immersive website that will help equip Connecticut elementary educators with new ways to teach a variety of subjects by tapping into the Museum’s content-rich collection of American art. SEE/change offers multiple tools designed to help teachers draw upon a single work of art for meaning on various relevant topics—from state and national history to geography to ecology. SEE/change challenges students to change the way they SEE paintings.

SEE/change was led by the Museum’s Director of Education and Outreach David D.J. Rau who was inspired by the change that is underway in America’s schools. “Connecticut teachers are being called upon to reboot their entire educational approach—moving away from teaching facts and figures towards inquiry-based instruction that encourages students to think critically and with deepening complexity, states Rau.  “It’s our hope that SEE/change helps educators and students see a change in the way they investigate subjects using primary sources and various points of view.”

The project was funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services. It focuses on the Museum’s 1853 painting,Seven Miles to Farmington by Connecticut artist George H. Durrie. The popular genre scene of travelers arriving by sleigh to a rustic country inn on a winter’s day is steeped in historical content.

For over a year, the Museum worked closely with students, educators, and content and curriculum specialists. Staff visited elementary school classrooms to talk about the painting. Students were asked them to describe what they thought was going on in the painting and what kinds of learning activities they would enjoy doing on the computer.

Museum staff sought the council of content and curriculum specialists to develop content that is age-appropriate, applicable to teachers’ needs and concur with specific connections to the state Social Studies Framework. The end result is a dynamic set of web pages designed by Julia Balfour, LLC, that feature visually rich essays about the artist, the painting, the inn in the painting, and the landscape.

Users learn more about the artist, his life in New Haven, and his artistic career. The site features a portfolio of Durrie’s work, a timeline, a visual glossary, and lesson plans. Three engaging videos include a guided tour of the painting, a demonstration featuring Leslie Evans, Director of the Avery-Copp House Museum in Groton, making a pounded cheese from a recipe from the period, and a short painting lesson based on Durrie’s dogs. There is also a fun section of games and learning-to-look activities.

Students can make the scene come alive by pressing buttons that link to things you might hear such as a rooster crowing, crunching snow, or a snoring traveler. Educators praise the learning tool, “SEE/changehas created a stellar one stop workplace for educators to bring their classes to a piece that seamlessly integrates the arts and history, notes Dana Nelson, curriculum team member and 5th Grade Teacher at Tuttle Elementary School in East Haven, Connecticut. “My students can time travel to the 19th century to become one with a painting.”

Although the portal is designed for teachers and students to connect art and history in their classrooms, any virtual visitor can enjoy exploring the mysteries behind this iconic work of American art by logging on to FlorenceGriswoldMuseum.org.

The recipient of a Trip Advisor 2016 Certificate of Excellence, the Florence Griswold Museum has been called a “Giverny in Connecticut” by the Wall Street Journal, and a “must-see” by the Boston Globe. In addition to the restored Florence Griswold House, the Museum features a gallery for changing art exhibitions, education and landscape centers, a restored artist’s studio, thirteen acres along the Lieutenant River, and extensive gardens. Its seasonal Café Flo was recognized as “best hidden gem” and “best outdoor dining” by Connecticut Magazine.

The Museum is located at 96 Lyme Street, Old Lyme, CT.

Visit FlorenceGriswoldMuseum.org for more information.

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