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A young student is sewing the binding of an imitation manuscript made with antique-looking paper.

Dumbarton Oaks Again Welcomes Horizons Greater Washington

Posted On August 22, 2023 | 16:37 pm | by briggsm01 | Permalink
This summer, Dumbarton Oaks collaborated with education nonprofit Horizons Greater Washington to welcome a group of rising sixth graders to the museum.

An affiliate of Horizons National and a Dumbarton Oaks partner since 2017, Horizons Greater Washington offers a tuition-free academic and enrichment summer program for students from underserved communities in the Washington, DC, area. Over the course of four weeks, young learners from a nearby site hosted by St. Patrick’s Episcopal Day School discovered Dumbarton Oaks and learned about its collections through guided tours, object study, and hands-on activities.

Led by Postbaccalaureate Public Programming and Outreach Fellow Ava Hampton and Arts Education Intern Christine Corcoran, the program was designed to introduce students to Byzantine, Pre-Columbian, and Garden & Landscape Studies as well as Dumbarton Oaks more broadly. During the first week’s session, students became junior archaeologists, literally uncovering buried objects and making observations about their findings. The second session focused on demystifying students’ museum experience by strengthening their close-looking observation skills and building confidence as museumgoers through inquiry-based exploration of the galleries.

The highlight of week two was the Pre-Columbian collection, focusing on Mesoamerica. After a guided tour of the Pre-Columbian galleries, students took part in another close-looking activity using a Harvard Project Zero thinking routine. Developed at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, thinking routines are structured question sets designed to help learners consider and talk about art. The week ended with a tasty and hands-on activity demonstrating the evolution of hot chocolate. Students ground up roasted cacao beans and prepared chocolate drinks according to a pre-colonial Mesoamerican recipe, a colonial recipe, and a modern recipe. The students also explored the cultural significance of cacao and how drinks derived from it have changed with the introduction of new ingredients and technologies.

Developed and led by Corcoran as the capstone project of her summer internship, week three was centered on the development of Byzantine manuscripts. The session began with a warm-up activity to help students understand the utility of minuscule writing (read more about this scripting at the Vatican Library) and a brief overview of the characteristics of manuscripts. The session ended with students stitching and decorating their own manuscripts. For this session, Corcoran produced an instructional video on how to sew a manuscript, which may be repurposed as an asynchronous educational resource in the future.

During the final week of summer programming, the students explored Dumbarton Oaks Gardens and learned about different methods for recording observations about landscapes. Joining the facilitation team, Plant Humanities Intern Hannah Hardenbergh offered her perspective as a landscape architecture student at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design. Students learned to apply techniques used by botanical illustrators to create their own illustrated plant maps.

Dumbarton Oaks is committed to closing opportunity gaps and providing high-quality museum experiences to underserved students in the Washington Metropolitan area, and Horizons Greater Washington is an invaluable partner in striving for that goal. This summer’s lively and engaged group of young learners were a welcome addition to the Dumbarton Oaks summer community.

Ava Hampton is the 2021-23 Public Programming and Outreach Fellow and Christine Corcoran is the Summer 2023 Arts Education Intern at Dumbarton Oaks.