Friday, March 04, 2016

Lime aid

Today started with a dusting of snow, which by afternoon had nearly disappeared. For most of the day I was busy with errands in preparation for my upcoming trip to France - plans for France, for my classes in my absence, and for my classes on my return - but it started with another session of our pedagogy seminar at Teacher's College. We had a visitor lead the discussion, a professor of museum education. She'd given us two brief readings to prepare, one about leading students in an art museum, the other about the powerful attention called forth by description. She passed around a plastic bag of limes (the bag was a semi-transparent white which somehow made the limes recall Cézanne) and each of us was instructed to take one and take some time to observe it: looking, touching, smelling... We shared what we'd observed.
It was like the way many guides now lead art appreciation tours; people noticed different things, and kinds of things. Then the bag went around again, and the limes went back in. The visitor observed that some of us had some difficulty parting without "our" limes. (I was one, explaining that I felt we'd had an adventure together.) But soon the limes were released from the bag on to a table and we were told to retrieve ours, if we could recognize it. Everyone found this challenging for one reason or another, but, remarkably, the eleven of us all recovered a lime we were sure was the one we'd inspected before. What a relief! Simple exercises can be among the most illuminating. It's not just that limes are different enough that one could get to know the difference, but that each of us had studied only our own lime: we hadn't been looking for distinguishing traits in a comparative way. I'm not sure why this was great, but it was.

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