Graphite-Inspired Exhibit Sparks Studies of Local Connections to Pencil and Paper

Graphite-Inspired Exhibit Sparks Studies of Local Connections to Pencil and Paper

Lead by a visit to the Springfield Museums’ new exhibit, Leaving Our Mark: In Celebration of the Pencil, families can explore not only the role of pencils and paper in art-making, but their ties to the history of western Massachusetts!

Honoring one of the most well-known, well-loved, and well-used art-making materials known to man, the Springfield Museums’ exhibit Leaving Our Mark: In Celebration of the Pencil spotlights the graphite-based tool with which most great artworks begin. Filled with numerous works created with graphite on paper, the exhibit brings to light the role that graphite plays (and has played) in the art world, paying homage to this basic yet incredibly versatile utensil. By visiting the exhibit, families can learn about the use of graphite as an artistic medium and view works that explore its potential. Families can also explore the history of western Massachusetts by using pencil and paper as a catalyst for learning!

On view from now through March 27th of 2016, Leaving Our Mark is made up of 62 pieces of artwork, carefully curated by local artist Steve Wilda. Though made using what can sometimes be thought of as the most basic of materials, the works included in the exhibit speak to the true potential of graphite in art-making and include rich detail within complex images. Visitors to the exhibit can even leave their own mark with graphite, adding their own graphite-based works to the exhibit’s Community Drawing Wall.

Originally used for marking sheep to show ownership, graphite became a material for drawing and writing during the 1500’s, when a large deposit was discovered in England. Following this discovery, graphite evolved in its use (and its manufacture into more sophisticated drawing tools) – evidence of which can be seen within the exhibit.

In addition to exploring the artistic potential afforded to artists by graphite, families can explore the role that pencils and paper have played in local history – beginning with one of the country’s earliest mining operations. Read the rest of this entry »

Autumn Supports Science-Based Learning in Local Landscape

Fall Phenology Inspires Science-Based Learning in Local Landscape

Phenology – the study of seasonal change in plants and animals – helps to illuminate the slow and subtle daily changes undergone in the living things around us. By combining leaf peeping with an awareness of phenology, families can learn about the science behind the colorful fall landscape.

Along with the colorful transitions that the fall landscape undergoes come opportunities to explore a wide variety of scientific topics. Viewing a fall landscape can serve as a catalyst for studies of botany, dendrology, ecology, and natural history, and can help children to deepen their sense of place and their understanding of themselves as existing within – rather than beside – the local landscape.

Studies of the autumn landscape fall into the broad scientific category of phenology, which is the study of the cyclic nature of growth and change in plants and animals – as is generally attributed to the changing in seasons. The phenology of a New England fall involves observations of patterns of death and preparation for hibernation, as annual plants approach the end of their single-season lives and perennials prepare for a season of frozen sleep.  Read the rest of this entry »

Every Kid in a (National) Park!

Every Kid in a Park Offers 4th Graders a National Park Free-for-All!

During the 2015-2016 school year, families of 4th graders can gain free access to all of the country’s fantastic national parks! Whether by exploring Massachusetts’ historic sites and national seashore or dreaming about mountainous parks out west, families can engage in both experiential and inspired learning about the treasures our park system has to offer.

Just because summer is quickly waning doesn’t mean that family adventures have to come to an end – and why should they, when national parks have been more accessible to families than ever before! Thanks to the Every Kid in a Park initiative, families that include a 4th grade student (or a home- or un-schooled child of the equivalent age) can visit any of the United States’ national parks for free during the 2015-2016 school year. Every Kid in a Park gives families opportunities to engage experientially in studies of the natural and cultural history of our country, and helps to promote nature-based play and learning by inspiring families to explore the outdoors.

While Massachusetts is not home to any national parks showcasing vast tracts of unique land, the state is filled with national historic sites that speak to the role the state has played in American history – particularly during the 17th and 18th centuries. Locally, the Springfield Armory offers a military history immersion experience within day-trip distance of all of western Massachusetts. In addition to historic sites, a full list of Massachusetts parks reveals natural gems such as the Cap Cod National Seashore and the Boston Harbor Islands, locations that afford visitors the opportunity to explore the state’s Atlantic coastline. Read the rest of this entry »

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