Thursday, February 11, 2010

Installation Art & Playing to Learn

As the Director of Education here at the Mattress Factory, I spend a lot of time thinking about how our programs can engage people of all ages and shape the way they experience art. For those of you who have visited, you know that the space itself serves as an amazing educational laboratory. But we don't just provide opportunities to learn more about our artists and exhibitions. I think the Mattress Factory is an incubator for learning itself.

A recent op-ed in The New York Times called "Playing to Learn" got me thinking about this point. Author Susan Engel (a psychology professor at Williams College) suggests we should seriously consider a complete overhaul to the standard public school curriculum.

CAPA/Ellis Workshop 4She argues that the traditional curriculum is counter-intuitive to the ways in which children actually learn, which is by experience. Instead of cramming facts and figures, Engel believes children should "develop ways of thinking that will lead to valuable knowledge and skills later on."

Engel doesn't explicitly mention the value of art in her article, but she does talk about how play can satisfy a child's curiosity about things that interest them. I couldn't agree more, and I feel the same way about art. Installation art can help children learn about the world around them. It can also allow them to develop their own ways of thinking about the issues addressed by the art.

The Mattress Factory is like one big experiential learning environment - one that is filled with art and opportunities to stretch one's brain in new and interesting ways. Do you think about the world differently after a trip here? Feel free to let us know by leaving your thoughts in the comments section below.

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