Guest blogger: Logan Meyers, UMFA pARTners Coordinator
Hi, I’m Logan! I grew up in Idaho Falls, Idaho, which is where my teaching experience began. When I was fifteen, I got my first job teaching swimming lessons to children at a small outdoor swimming pool. I loved teaching right from the start; it was fun and rewarding to watch children learn and develop skills they didn’t know they possessed. Over the course of seven summers, I taught more than 2,000 students how to swim, and I co-created the first swimming lesson program in Idaho specifically designed for students with special needs.
When I graduated from high school in 2007, I studied graphic design at Utah State University. After graduating with an associate’s degree in graphic design in 2009, I worked as a professional artist for a year. After a lot of reflecting and pondering, I realized that that I really missed teaching and being around students. So, in Fall 2010, I enrolled at Utah Valley University and pursued a degree in secondary art education.
While studying at UVU, my passion for teaching grew deeper, and I developed an interdisciplinary approach to teaching art, rooted in the educational philosophy of constructivism. After a lot of exploration, I found that museum education aligned with many of my own personal teaching philosophies, and I was lucky enough to get a dream job at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts.
While the Museum is closed for remodeling, the UMFA education and engagement department has had the opportunity to creatively adapt many programs for delivery outside the Museum. For more than thirty years, through our pARTners program, the UMFA has hosted thousands of students from the Salt Lake City School District on field trips to the Museum twice during their fourth-grade year. The program includes tours of our permanent collection and special exhibitions, led by our skilled docents and using unique curriculum we develop each year. This link to children in our community—including many students in under-served schools in the area—creates thrilling, often first-time, museum experiences.
When I joined the UMFA education and engagement staff last fall as pARTners coordinator, my job was to modify the program and bring an authentic museum experience to the classroom. Our curriculum this year focuses on the theme of identity, and I have curated an in-class presentation utilizing authentic art objects from the education collection and referencing artworks from the UMFA permanent collection.
The in-class experience allows students to develop visual thinking strategies and appreciate art by analyzing artworks while making unique connections to their own lives. Students actually handle—with gloves, of course—objects from the education collection, and art-making activities encourage them to further conceptualize the theme and engage their creativity.
This constructive approach to art exploration engages students and empowers them to think critically about their identity while developing empathy for others’ identities.
My favorite experience with pARTners so far was teaching at Woodrow Wilson Elementary during the testing period for this current presentation on identity. Woodrow Wilson has a large refugee student population, and the topic seemed to deeply resonate with the students, especially when we discussed cultural identity. The insightful fourth-grade students in this class talked about the importance of art for the continuation and preservation of culture and tradition.
I have also enjoyed hearing how students connect artworks to their own lives and experiences. As a part of this presentation we discuss Waiting by Will Barnet, a lithograph from our permanent collection that depicts women standing near the ocean and staring off toward the horizon.
While discussing this artwork in one fourth grade class, a student raised his hand and said, “I think these women are contemplating something important because this reminds me of the time Luke Skywalker was staring off into the distance on Tatooine, trying to decide what to do with his life.”
Priceless moments like these confirm that being a UMFA educator is the perfect combination of my love of both art and teaching, and I’m so excited to be here during this transitional time for the Museum. “This is a new day, a new beginning.”