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Hofstra changes “Let’s Explore” program for children

Hofstra changes “Let’s Explore” program for children

While pausing at a sculpture, children get to make arts and crafts while participating in the Let’s Explore Backpacks program.

The year-round program for children, Let’s Explore Backpacks, offered since 2017 by the Hofstra University Museum of Art, was “modified” this summer, said Communications Director Charmise Woodside-Desiré.

Museum Educator Kylie McGinnis said that the goal of Let’s Explore Backpacks is to give children the opportunity to “interact with the museum in a way that’s fun and engaging ... and also [allows them] to see the Hofstra campus too, which is beautiful.” 

The students are provided with backpacks as they partake in a scavenger hunt-like journey across the university’s campus, participate in activities and create artwork. Prior to the summer, the program’s backpacks and activities were “clearly outdated,” McGinnis said.

Each backpack provided by the museum will now include a new, updated information packet containing a map of the university. This map marks the location of Hofstra’s various outdoor sculptures.

“I always say that the Hofstra University Museum of Art has a million hidden gems ... Our backpack program gives families the opportunity to explore those and learn about art in a fun and interactive way,” said Sky Dellasala, a senior film major and assistant at the museum’s Emily Lowe Gallery. The artwork is modeled on specific sculptures and varies in difficulty depending upon the corresponding theme of the backpack, of which there are currently four: animals, for children ages 5-8; shapes, for children ages 3-8; “Speak Up,” for children ages 9-13; and people, also for ages 9-13 but slightly more advanced than “Speak Up.”

The information packet also includes facts about each sculpture and the artist who constructed it, questions to guide the children’s discussion, directions and supplies for activities and artwork and a sketchbook and a paper bag to take the artwork home in. 

Over the summer, McGinnis said she worked to make the program “more culturally relevant.” One way the museum did this, she said, was by creating an entirely separate information packet in Spanish for Spanish-speaking children and their parents and guardians. 

McGinnis said she is excited to receive feedback on the new changes, set to be measured by a survey distributed to parents and guardians of children who participated this summer. The museum, she added, hopes to conclude its changes to the program by this fall. 

“I hope something the children take away from our various programs and art exhibits is that art is such a fundamental part of education and that learning doesn’t have to end in the classroom with a lecture,” Dellasala said. 

The program is free of charge and open to children between the ages of 3 and 13. During the fall, backpacks can be picked up between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. inside the Emily Lowe Gallery. Backpacks need to be returned to the museum by 4 p.m.

Additionally, the museum will offer a program called ARTful Adventures, where children can engage in hands-on art projects, on the second Saturday of each month from September to May. More information can be found on the museum’s webpage on Hofstra’s website.

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