Onekama students receive history lesson from experts

Onekama fourth graders participate in a live conversation with a representative from the Smithsonian American Art Museum from the school’s Distance Learning classroom.

Onekama fourth graders participate in a live conversation with a representative from the Smithsonian American Art Museum from the school’s Distance Learning classroom.

ONEKAMA — With the flip of a few switches and a few clicks of a mouse, technical director Boz Duffield was able to transport the fourth graders of Onekama Elementary, and their social studies teacher Megan McCarthy, to Washington, D.C.

The students recently participated in a live two-way videoconference with a museum curator at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. The topic of the presentation was “America’s Signs and Symbols” and it served as a great conclusion to the class’s year-long look at United States studies.

During the presentation, students learned that artists use familiar American icons – the Statue of Liberty, the bald eagle, the flag – to communicate their ideas and to encourage probing thoughts about our society. The curator showed students various paintings and sculptures and discussed the signs and symbols inherent in each.

“I thought it was really interesting to see how some Americans express themselves and the way they love their country through art,” commented fourth grade student Ryan Petrosky.

The goals of the videoconference are to help students be better able to understand the historical context and symbolic meanings of American icons and the role of symbols in the expression of a national identity, personal ideas, and social commentary.

Many students were in awe of the size and scope of the museum itself, as well as the diversity of artwork found inside.

“Did you know that it used to be a patent office?” said student Elisha Bellinger. “We got to see so much great art today and learn so many things I didn’t already know. The Smithsonian is awesome, and I want to go there.”

“As a teacher, I enjoy these opportunities to take students outside the boundaries of our school building,” said Megan McCarthy. “Though not all of my students may have the opportunity to physically walk through the doors of the Smithsonian in their lifetimes, getting to share these great American treasures today and participate in a meaningful dialogue about the connections between art, history, culture, and national pride was extraordinary.”

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