Teaching AWE and WONDER

by Melanie Hasbrook

Amy Hufnagel, Director of Education

“Thank you for showing us Frederic Church’s estate Olana. I liked it when Mark showed us the stone wall and what it looked like before it was fixed. Ms. Amy I really liked the house tour, Church’s art, the views, and the activity when we got to make a 3D paper Olana. Thank you for helping us to understand all of Olana.” –Owen, 3rd Grade, Albany (11/5/15)

So what is a workday for someone seeking to teach awe and wonder? A recent grant awarded to The Olana Partnership and the Thomas Cole National Historic Site can help illustrate as grants are a lot of administration and reporting work mixed with hopeful and visionary goal setting. This year the National Park system celebrates its 100th Anniversary, and The White House is promoting an initiative called Every Kid in a Park. The National Park Foundation granted Olana and the Thomas Cole House $9,000 to underwrite busing for any 4th grade classroom in the region (first come first served) because they are aware that schools are struggling to fund field trips, and that exposure to historic structures and publicly owned parks is the first step in people feeling awed enough to preserve them. The Register-Star’s Publisher Mark Vinciguerra recently wrote:

“In the 1800s American artists made the long journey to Europe to hone their skills. In 2016, young students will be able to travel a much shorter distance to experience the unique art those geniuses created. Nine-thousand dollars doesn’t seem like a lot, but in the hands of Olana and the Cole House it is truly a fortune.” (1/19/16)

Resources, learning standards and curriculum, as well as access to quality learning opportunities are driving Presidential initiatives, national funding priorities, NY State education goals, and local museum partnerships. And while most of these policies seem very far away from minds of youth and adults as they stare out the window of Olana across the landscape, the Hudson River, and up to the Catskill Mountain range this one slice of land can help build a culture that never stops protecting and preserving its natural and national treasures.

Post Script: While we are working hard with schools to build a culture that values conservation and preservation, our education work does not end with the dismissal of schools for summer break. On February 1, 2016 we released the program schedule for our popular Panorama: Week long Summer Programs for kids ages 6-13 (to take place in July). We sent emails to the parents and children who attended last year’s program, and we had remarkable registration returns with parent’s writing things like, “The girls are very excited to come play with you all again this summer!” and “Count our children in, the program looks amazing again.” We are hopeful grandparents, aunties and uncles and cousins, a well as parents will add Panorama to summer plans. Panorama is an uber extended field trip where learning is embedded in every activity, although we are pretty sure the kids have no idea that is what is happening!