Making Cultural Connections at The Asia Society Museum
In early April, each Lower Elementary class took a field trip to the Asia Society Museum on the Upper East Side. Every year Lower Elementary focuses on two to three continents—covering all continents over the three-year LE cycle—to explore their people and culture, geography, history, and flora and fauna. After studying Australia in the fall, LE kicked off their studies of Asia in early February with presentations about the Lunar New Year.
The visit to the Asia Society complemented the students’ cultural studies—and that’s “cultural” studies with the particular, Montessori definition of the word—of Asia in the classroom: The students have been learning about Asian biomes including animal and plant life; Asian symbols (explored through country flags); and religions in Asia. The field trip included an interactive guided tour of the museum with a spotlight on some specific pieces of art and artifacts. As the LE students have spent time creating their own maps of Asia, we decided to kick off our tour by viewing one of the rare prints of Ma Junliang’s 18th century map of China. We then moved on to an exhibition featuring artwork from the Asia Society’s “Masterpieces” collection, which included ceramics and sculptures from a geographically diverse set of countries from Japan to India. Our tour guide discussed several sculptures in depth, sharing how aspects of Hinduism and Buddhism were incorporated into the ancient art of Southeast Asia. The inquisitive LE students posed many questions and made thoughtful connections between the artwork and their studies. They also had an had an opportunity to flex their own observational and artistic skills as they sketched various ceramics and sculptures from the collection.