Sending Smoke Signals to the People in Schools Who Make Things Happen

October 24, 2010 at 8:17 pm Leave a comment

posted by David Bowles ’08 (SFC ’93), museum educator at the Rubin Museum of Art

These days I’m thinking about smoke signals.

I work as Assistant Manager of School Programs at the Rubin Museum of Art, an institution with one of the greatest collections of Himalayan art in the hemisphere. Smoke signals may make you think about the Rockies instead of the Himalayas, but bear with me here. I’m a visual thinker. I work hard to design great museum experiences for K-12 students and their teachers, and I’m in the midst of reaching out to teachers and school administrators across the tri-state area, and I find myself thinking about how we communicate with each other.

Every school has sparks – people who really make things happen. These people are sometimes the parent coordinators, sometimes the teachers, sometimes secretaries in the main office. There is almost always more than one. These are the people who know how to connect cultural institutions like museums to school curricula. You just never know who they’ll turn out to be. How can I make contact? What line of communication will help us share ideas in an authentic, efficient, and clear way? Sometimes I feel like we are in a wilderness sending smoke signals to each other.

But then of course, this is an urban jungle, so we’ve got modern tools at our disposal! Here are a few (but certainly not all) great ways that cultural organizations and schools can communicate.

1. The New York City Department of Education has an enormous wealth of resources online:

2. Alumni networks are great conduits of information. I studied Museum Education at Bank Street College of Education, and their alumni blog and listserv are great tools for reaching alumni in schools across the city: and

3. Education Conferences: My colleagues and I participate in teaching conferences like the Celebration of Teaching and Learning throughout the year. What a great way to meet new teachers!

4. Educator Open Houses: The museum hosts two open houses for educators each year. Our last open house, on Wednesday, October 6, featured representatives from an array of cultural organizations of interest to teachers, and offered teachers a chance to relax, catch a tour, explore opportunities for student learning at the museum, and get their hands on great educational materials. Our next Educator Open House will be in February 2011, so stay tuned.

5. Personal Contacts: As I meet teachers throughout the year, I stay in touch and keep them posted on exciting events at the museum that may interest them. Many of them do the same with me! This kind of correspondence creates avenues for communication that strengthen over time.

6. Pounding the pavement. It’s not glamorous, but sometimes a great conversation starts by just showing up in schools and striking up a conversation.

What are some ways that you send out smoke signals?

In his work as Assistant Manager of School Programs at the Rubin Museum of Art, David oversees, coordinates and implements programs for K-12 students and their teachers that foster meaningful and reflective learning experiences with the museum’s unparalleled collection of Himalayan art. These initiatives include museum tours, residency school programs, museum-school partnerships, professional development opportunities, and a wide range of gallery experiences. He has an M.S.Ed from Bank Street College of Education and a B.A. with Honours from McGill University.

Entry filed under: collaboration, community, museums, professional development, the arts, urban schools.

Part II ~ The Trip: Kids Investigate Their Own Questions & Their Own Realities “Putting Head Start to the Test”

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Some of Our Past Bloggers

Alisa Algava ‘08, leader of a small Hudson Valley progressive school
Gloria Arenson ’58, psychotherapist
Bill Ayers ‘84, UIC professor, Chicago
Fred Baumgarten ‘84, writer/musician/naturalist/father
Keith Berman '03, founder/president of Options for College and Bank Street’s LinkedIn moderator
David Bowles ’08 (SFC ’93), museum educator at the Rubin Museum of Art
Elena Canaras ‘07, Special Education teacher, Hawaii
Virginia Casper, Bank Street faculty member
Jim Clay ‘88, director of a Washington DC Quaker preschool
Mary DeCamp Cotterall ‘87, Reading Specialist, Michigan
Judy Coven ’77, retired public school teacher and former Antioch University faculty member
Leslie Day '93, adjunct instructor at Bank Street and author of Field Guide to the Natural World of New York City
Mary Louise (Molly) Day ‘76, Lab School teacher, Chicago
Liezel de La Isla ‘99, Prague International School teacher
Diane Trister Dodge '70, founder and president of Teaching Strategies, Inc.
Meghan Dunn ’08, 3rd grade teacher, Brooklyn
Steven Evangelista ’01, co-director Harlem Link Charter School, NYC
Janine Fetters ‘02, Senior Associate of Parent Engagement at NACCRRA
Dena Florczyk '88, middle school teacher and founder/director of The Nigerian School Project
Hollee Freeman '94, writes about parenting issues for the alumni blog and was featured on BSCAA's April 2012 Career Panel
Ellen Galinsky '70, is President and Co-Founder of Families and Work Institute and author of Mind in the Making: The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs
Joanne Ruvolo Gannett ‘84, Columbia College art history professor, Chicago
Joan Goldstein ‘67, sociologist and educator
Margot Hammond, Director of the Center for Early Childhood Professionals
Carol Hillman ‘67, early childhood educator, author, and Long Trip co-leader
Pam Jones ‘05, Bank Street advisor and instructor
Lee Klinger Lesser ‘87, trainer for the Parent Services Project
Preminda Langer ‘97, teacher trainer
Claire Milam ’97, life coach, Austin, Texas
Rabin Nickens ‘03, Speaker, Trainer and Educational Consultant
Beth Norford ‘89, consultant and former School for Children teacher
Susy Ogden ‘97
Marion Palm ‘95, Leadership in the Arts alum, writing tutor, poet and singer
Jessica Poser, assistant professor of art education at UIC, Chicago
Jesse Pugh '76, BSCAA President
Meg Rauen ‘06, former Chicago elementary school teacher, NY
Linda Reing, Bank Street Director of Alumni Relations
Rosalind Rothman '62, retired NYC teacher and guidance counselor
Kyla Ryman '92/'97, educational coach and consultant
Ariel Sacks ‘06, middle school teacher, Brooklyn, NY
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Barbara Silver ‘80, literacy consultant and former NYC first grade teacher
Andrea Penny Spencer, former Associate Dean of Academic Affairs at Bank Street
Debbie Stone ‘84, former teacher/co-director of High Valley School
Rachel Theilheimer ‘74, chair of teacher education at BMCC/CUNY
Theodore Timpson ’05, founder/president of Young Spirit Foundation
Eleanor Traubman '95, is Editor in Chief of Creative Times, a blog which promotes NYC's performing, visual and literary arts
Allison Warren '08, new mom, recent grad, and early childhood teacher
Max Weinberg ‘03, Francis Parker School teacher, Chicago
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Tracy Wiessbrod ’03, kindergarten teacher and stay-at-home mom

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