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Bridgeport Middle Schoolers Gain Critical Eye Through Peer Docent Program

Janet Zamparo teaches peer docent students inside the Arcade Mall in Bridgeport..  The Housatonic Museum of Art was awarded $15,000 from Fairfield County's Community Foundation for the Museum's Peer Docent Program.
Janet Zamparo teaches peer docent students inside the Arcade Mall in Bridgeport.. The Housatonic Museum of Art was awarded $15,000 from Fairfield County's Community Foundation for the Museum's Peer Docent Program. Photo Credit: Contributed

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. -- A Housatonic Museum of Art program helps Bridgeport middle school students get a good start in art, and now, even more students will be able to participate.

The Museum's Peer Docent Program introduces Bridgeport middle school students to art and art history, teaching them to look at art critically and guiding classmates during tours. Fairfield County’s Community Foundation recently awarded $15,000 to support the program.

In the nine-week program, students get an opportunity to use object-based inquiry to practice observing, questioning, discussing, and learning about art and ideas.

There are six school-site training sessions, two field trips to the HMA where Museum Educators model docent training, and eventually where peer docents lead their classmates on tours, as well as a third field trip to another historically significant architectural site.

The HMA utilizes its permanent collection to enhance the Program, which is modeled upon Harvard University’s Project Zero’s Guided-Inquiry Method and sub-program Project MUSE (Museums Uniting with Schools in Education), and the Aldrich Museum’s Peer Docent Program.

The grant will allow HMA Museum Educators to train 90 students to be docents who will guide 600 classmates on tours of Downtown Bridgeport. Through the program, students develop visual, analytical and critical thinking skills that will assist them across academic disciplines and throughout their lifetimes.

The HMA Peer Docent Program is entering its 15th year of successfully introducing Bridgeport students to art and architecture in their communities and throughout the region.

“We are so pleased to receive this award as we continue to expand students’ understanding of the art that surrounds them,” said Robbin Zella, Director of HMA. “For the past four years, the program’s emphasis has been on local architecture with field trips to visit architectural icons such as the Glass House in New Canaan,  and the Chrysler Building, the Empire State Building, and 30 Rockefeller Center in New York City. For this coming year, we will partner with HCC’s Manufacturing Center that houses several 3-D printers which will allow students to create and print their own architectural designs.”

Fairfield County’s Community Foundation promotes philanthropy as a means to create change in Fairfield County, focusing on innovative and collaborative solutions to critical issues impacting the community.

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