Today we attended the Science and Sculpture Tour, a cooperative tour hosted by the Anita B. Gorman Discovery Center and the Nelson-Atkins Museum. The tour is led by teen guides, and provides opportunities for the kids to connect art and science together in interesting ways.
The first part of our tour was at the Anita B. Gorman Discovery Center. Located in the heart of Kansas City, just east of the Plaza, the nature center has eight acres full of native plants, a water garden, a play area for children, as well as a wonderful visitor center.
The kids started out by talking about texture. To explore texture, they did a sensory experiment. The guides had tables with four different boxes on them. In each box was an undisclosed item. The kids had to reach in and using just their sense of touch, figure out what was in the box. They were also given sketchbooks and pencils so they could draw what they thought the items were.
After all the kids had an opportunity to explore the boxes and sketch what they thought was in there and then discuss as a group what they thought the items might be, the guides revealed the actual contents:
After exploring texture, the kids moved to a different section of the nature center to learn more about value, or the relationship between light and darkness. To illustrate value, one of our guides discussed the three layers of a forest – the ground level/forest floor; the middle layer, also known as the undergrowth or understory; and the canopy or top part of the trees. Each layer has a different value – the canopy is much lighter on the value scale, while naturally the forest floor is on the darker end of the scale.
The kids also learned about dendroids, or tree-like shapes with branching. Fun fact: our fingers and our toes are dendroids! After learning about both the forest and dendroids, the kids were asked to draw a picture of something they spotted in the forest, but without looking at the paper while drawing. It was interesting to see some of the drawings the kids made.
After completing their drawings, the kids moved on to learn more about shapes and forms. To explore that, the kids built with a variety of wood shapes. The kids were divided into groups of four, and then were free to build. Some built tall towers, others built complex structures, while others built small wooden villages.
Once the kids had completed their wooden structures (and cleaned up!), we moved on to our last station, a wonderful garden of native plants. The kids were given a ring with paint chips and shapes cards, and encouraged to explore the garden and find plants that matched the colors and shapes on their ring. It was a great way to get the kids focusing on the finer details of the plants, like the way a plant’s leaves and stems form an arch, or the color of the center of a flower.
From the nature center, we moved over to the Nelson-Atkins Museum for a shady picnic and our tour of the sculpture garden. Due to the heat, we went on an indoor tour, and learned more about the sculptures on view. We started by viewing small scale examples of the “Four Seasons” currently on display in the outdoor sculpture garden. The kids were asked to pick their favorite season, then draw some of the details they liked best.
The kids viewed several of the large indoor pieces, then created their own shape art.
We also were able to learn about the texture of a granite sculpture and handle some smaller chunks to get a sense of the smoothness when polished, and the roughness and coarse grain when cut but not polished.
From there our tour was completed! Many thanks to the staff at both the Anita B. Gorman Discovery Center and the Nelson-Atkins Museum for putting together a great program, and a HUGE thanks to the wonderful teen guides for a fun tour. We really enjoyed ourselves, and look forward to more activities at both locations!