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Museum Leaders From Bridgeport Speaking At National Conference

Janet Zamparo teaching peer docent students inside the Arcade Mall in Bridgeport.
Janet Zamparo teaching peer docent students inside the Arcade Mall in Bridgeport. Photo Credit: Contributed Photo

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. – Robbin Zella, executive director and curator of the Housatonic Museum of Art, and Janet Zamparo, the museum’s curator of education, will speak at this year’s Turnaround Arts Summer Leadership Retreat in Warrenton, Va.

Turnaround Arts is an initiative of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, which uses arts education to help turn around America’s struggling schools. Zella and Zamparo will present the Housatonic Museum of Art's Peer Docent program, which teaches students to observe and discover local architecture and to be trained as docents.

The five-day retreat provides nearly 200 participants with sessions led by presenters from the nation’s leading arts and education organizations. New tools and concepts are learned and then shared with staff back home.

“It is an honor to participate in this national effort that leads teachers to use the arts to transform their schools,” Zella said. “Bringing the HMA Peer Docent program to the retreat allows us to share this remarkable teaching tool with passionate and dedicated educators from across the country.”

For 15 years, the Housatonic Museum of Art Peer Docent Program has offered supplemental arts education to 17 underserved Bridgeport schools. The program provides students with an opportunity to use object-based inquiry and practice observing, questioning, discussing and listening to ideas about art. Students develop visual, analytical and critical thinking skills that assist them across academic disciplines and throughout their lifetimes. For the past three years, Zamparo has acted as the curator of education for the HMA Peer Docent Program for its management, development and implementation.

“The program teaches students about architecture, trains students to be docents and provides the opportunity for docents to guide their peers on tours. It’s a chance for kids to recognize the transformative joy, hope and imagination that the arts can bring,” Zamparo said.

The President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities launched the Turnaround Arts education initiative in 2011. A three-year program evaluation of pilot schools found broad improvements, including significant surges in reading and math scores, an increase in attendance and a decrease in suspensions.

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