This is an installment of the weekly interview series, on the Culture Comment blog. It’s called “Behind-the-Scenes.” Each week, we’ll discuss new facts and information about the people that make the Walters Art Museum tick. Now, let’s meet Amanda Kodeck.
Gary Vikan: What do you do at the Walters?
Amanda Kodeck: I manage the museum’s programming for students and teachers in grades Kindergarten through 12th grade. I make sure that everything we do at the museum aligns with the school curriculum. I am also responsible for teacher professional development as well as the online resources for this audience. The School Programs Department also includes homeschool programs, studio classes and outreach programs, where museum educators go to schools before students visit the museum on a field trip.
GV: Why do teachers enjoy working with the Walters?
AK: Teachers love the Walters because our collection aligns so well with school curriculum. For example, many sixth graders study the ancient world and the Walters is an ideal setting to bring the textbook to life. Teachers bring their students to the museum year after year since the curriculum aligns so well with the interactive and interdisciplinary nature of our school tours. We strive not just to talk about the art, but provide an engaging experience for students, empowering them to use their classroom knowledge and apply it to their tour.
GV: What else can students do at the museum?
AK: Many students extend their museum tour with a studio lesson. We have two studio classrooms where we add a hands-on component to the tour. This allows students to create art that directly relates to their tour and have something to take home with them. Last year, about half of the 30,000 students we served participated in a studio experience.
GV: How did you get the job as the Manager of School Programs?
AK: I stared as an intern in the Walters’ Curatorial Division. I liked my internship but realized I wanted to work in the Education Division so that I could work with children. When a job opportunity opened up in Education, I interviewed and received the position as an Outreach Coordinator. I spent a couple of years teaching lessons to students, prior to their museum visit. Eventually, I was promoted to the Manger of School Programs position.
GV: What type of training do you need for your position?
AK: When I finished college, I went straight to graduate school and received an M.A. in Art History. This degree helped me to learn about the art; however, I really wanted more training in education theory and best practices in museum education. I went back to school and received an M.S. in Education, Museum Leadership. The information I gained through this program has been essential for my job.
GV: What projects are you currently working on?
AK: I am really interested in technology and how to use it as a tool to enhance student learning both in and out of the museum. We are currently developing a fifth module for our arts integration website, which will focus on the arts of Islam. Integrating the Arts is a web resource that encourages visual arts teachers to integrate the arts into other disciplines or for non-arts teachers to venture into the world of art.
The site is designed around the science, math, language arts and social studies curricula. It is further divided by collection area, including works from our ancient, medieval, renaissance and Asian collections. Each year we train thousands of teachers on how to use this site and encourage them to use the museum in both traditional and non-traditional ways. It has allowed us to reach out to teachers who might not have thought about using the museum’s resources because they aren’t art teachers. Because we can teach about the math aspects of art, for example, non-arts teachers, like math teachers, they are more comfortable working with the museum’s art.
GV: Can you explain more about how this site is used?
AK: Teachers and students can use this site in two ways—by printing and downloading lesson plans for classroom use or by playing with our online interactives.
For example, in The ancient collections section there is an interactive that integrates science and art. Students learn about a large scale relief sculpture, which was originally found in an ancient palace in Mesopotamia. When the object was in the palace, it would have been painted in full color, but since that time the color has faded. Scientists have discovered small particles of ancient paint that once covered the alabaster carving. In this interactive, students analyze the paint particles and use that information to repaint the Winged Genius and restore its original appearance. This interactive highlights principles of chemistry and also shows students how science can be used in an art museum.