by Gina Thomas McGee, Associate Educator

Aside from working on programs, tours, films, concerts and lectures at the museum, the education department has been spending some time off-site bringing the museum experience to local preschool classrooms through our MiniMasters preschool art education program. The MiniMasters program, funded by PNC Bank’s Grow Up Great initiative, allows our staff to spend time in Summit County Head Start classrooms, teaching three to five year old students about our collection.

The last year of the MiniMasters program has taught us a lot. Who was it that said “We know nothing about children”? Whoever it was knew what he/she was talking about. We have been surprised and amazed nearly every day of this project. What I’ve learned personally is that I think children are the best people in the world. They may also be the smartest.

With that in mind, we decided to take a chance this July and work on an open-ended project with our summer class. If children are the smartest people around, why not let them lead their learning and see what happens?

We began with a loose idea. As the students would not be visiting the museum during our project, we wanted them to get to know the building through photos and then design an installation artwork for the lobby.

After a week of drawing, sharing ideas and creating prototypes, here is what the two separate groups came up with:MiniMasters TowerThis set of drawings was completed by a group of students who thought our elevator shaft looked like a tower (maybe even Rapunzel’s tower). The height of the tower inspired them to create a “tall” artwork for the lobby and hang it from the bridge.  We gave each student in the group a roll of register tape and they drew as much and as long as they liked before finishing the pieces with embellishments like colored tape and tissue paper. Their work was successful in drawing the viewer’s eye up to take in the height of the elevator shaft and the ceiling of the lobby in general.

MiniMasters Triangle

Meanwhile, the other group tackled the space between the columns that support our video box. They thought this part of the lobby needed “color, light and beautifulness”. The group designed prototypes first on paper and then on clear plastic sheeting once they decided they didn’t want to block light from passing through the space. Finally, they combined their ideas to create this mural. The final touch was the addition of battery powered twinkling lights. Their piece really activated this space and provoked viewers to pay attention to an otherwise overlooked area.

So, have we created a new generation of installation artists? Only time will tell. Until then, they have certainly reminded us that children have incredible ideas if you just take the time to listen.

To read more about the MiniMasters check out their blog at