On Monday, January 22, 2024, staff from the Allentown School District (ASD) and Newcomer Academy attended a professional development day at the Art Museum focused on accessibility in the art classroom and Social and Emotional Learning (SEL). The teachers were mostly art educators, though a few teach science and languages.

The presentations were led by the AAM’s school and family education manager, Nicole Mangold, and our manager of Museum accessibility, Margie Makowski. Nicole led a presentation on SEL, and Margie shared information about accessible art materials and tools. As the presentations took place, the teachers were invited to participate in mindfulness coloring.

Activities continued in the Rodale Classroom, where Museum educators Genesis Rodriguez and Rei Ukon guided the teachers in creating their own prints before getting a tour of the exhibition The Making of Gustave Baumann’s El Velorio (The Wake) led by AAM’s director of education and public engagement, Abigail Simmons.

After lunch and various roundtable discussions, the teachers created hand puppets in a workshop led by Rachel Sherk and Aaron Rourk of Music Art Puppet Sound (MAPS). MAPS is a nonprofit organization that bring music and art to underserved communities with a focus on process-based art, working with libraries, museums, shelters, and other community centers. The ASD activity ties into a larger MAPS and AAM project that includes a video curriculum with mini art projects and explanations of what students and teachers can expect to experience when visiting a museum for the first time.

papermache puppet“It was so exciting to see teachers come together and take some time for themselves,” says Margie. “Teaching is truly one of the most challenging yet rewarding careers, and teachers need time to fill their own cup, get inspired, create, and have time to connect with one another. I hope we were able to offer a calm and creative space for them.”

“Everything from beginning to end was a wonderful day!” said one teacher. “Everyone brought a wealth of knowledge. Delightful!” said another. And, “This was so valuable to me, to have the interactive tour and use the sketchbook.”