Claire Bown 00:12
Hello, and welcome to the art engager podcast with me Claire Bown. I’m here to share techniques and tools to help you engage with your audience and bring art objects and ideas to life. So let’s dive into this week’s show. Hello, and welcome back to the art engager podcast. I’m your host Claire Bown of thinking museum. And this is episode 50. Wow, that’s a milestone to reach 50 whole episodes. And also this week, we passed the 10,000 downloads mark, which is incredible, which means we’re celebrating today. And it also marks a whole year of podcasting. We started April 30, last year, so one year of podcast 50 episodes, and 10,000 downloads. It’s really gone by so fast. But thanks to everyone, that’s you. Thank you to everyone who has listened over the past year, whether you’ve been with us from the start, or whether you started late listening or recently, thank you so much for supporting the show. We are in the show. We’re a small niche podcast. But an important one, I think so much of the amazing work of museum education just goes under the radar. And I like to think that this show helps by shining a spotlight on the practice of museum education, and all the amazing and myriad ways that we’re engaging our audiences with art and objects. So before I get emotional, let me tell you about today’s show. So today I’m talking to museum educator Gabrielle grime. As part of a new series of episodes I’ll be sharing on pictures of practice, I want to share and highlight the amazing work of museum educators heritage educators working with all sorts of methods, but especially those who are working with visible thinking in the museum, with slow looking, thinking, routines, inquiry, and so much more. Now, Gabrielle is a heritage Education Officer at one route Regional Museum in Australia. And Gabrielle read about the peel the fruit thinking routine on my blog, and decided to give it a go with primary school children. And she speaks about this in our chat. It had amazing results, and he even left some of the group in tears. She then followed my veto course last year. And now she’s a member of my community of practice the thinking museum membership. And in this chat, we talk about her values, the values that inform her practice, what roles slow looking plays in her work, and what thinking routines she loves to use. She also shares why she stays up until 11pm, or even midnight sometimes just to attend classes. We talk about questioning facilitation, and being part of this community of educators all learning exploring and sharing together. As always, all the links that we mentioned in the chat are on the show notes and you can find the show notes on my website. This is episode 50. I know you’re gonna love listening to this chat. Enjoy. Hi, Gabrielle. Welcome to the Art engager podcast.
Gabrielle Grime 04:06
Hello, Claire. It’s so nice to be here with you.
Claire Bown 04:09
Oh, I’m delighted you could be here. So could you tell us for everyone that’s listening where you are right now?
Gabrielle Grime 04:17
Yes, I am speaking to you from my home on Whadjuk Noongar country which is in Perth, Western Australia, about 25 kilometres north of the city centre.
Claire Bown 04:28
Brilliant. So your first guests from Australia on the podcast. So welcome. And I’m delighted we could find a time when we can talk with each other. And it’s not your evening or my morning too early. So tell me tell me what it is that you do.
Gabrielle Grime 04:47
Okay, so I work as a Heritage Education Officer for a pretty large local government called the city of Wanneroo. And where we are because we are north of Perth. It’s pretty semi-rural and rural. And it’s a huge Council. It’s about 685 square kilometres. And we have Yeah, we have a museum, two heritage houses where we deliver programmes as well. And we’re kind of housed in this building, which has also got a library and the regional art gallery, which forms you feel like a cultural centre. So it’s quite an interesting place to be working.
Claire Bown 05:28
And how long have you been working there?
Gabrielle Grime 05:31
About five years?
Claire Bown 05:33
Okay,and what sort of led you to working there? What did you do beforehand?
Gabrielle Grime 05:39
Well, I’ve had a very diverse background in education. And it’s funny, this is really forming a full circle, because when I first graduated from university, I was lucky enough to get this graduate position in Canberra, and was with sections affairs, and I worked in the War Memorial, as part of a kind of an internship, and I just loved it. And so when I finished that year, I thought, I am going to try and find work in a cultural institution. And the National Library had a fairly low paying entry job, and I just jumped on it. And then I ended up working there for about five years in education and visitor services. And I didn’t really have any background in the area, but I just learned so much. And then over the years, I’ve worked variously as a high school English teacher, I worked for six years in Taiwan as an as an English teacher there, worked as an early childhood music teacher, worked for seven years in waste and sustainability education, and latterly, I’ve come back to working at the Wanneroo Museum in museum education again. So it’s been a very interesting journey,
Claire Bown 06:51
Wow, brilliant. And all that experience feeds into your work now as a museum educator, I imagine. So this is part of a new series of episodes that we’re doing all about ‘pictures of practice’. And what I’m really interested is in finding out how other museum educators around the world, engage their audiences with art and objects, what are some of the practices that are really important to them? How they might use thinking routines, or slow looking, all those sorts of things I’d like to dive into with you. But just to start us off, are there some values or principles that are essential in your work?
Gabrielle Grime 07:36
Well, very handy that I’ve been doing the Thinking Museum Membership with you Claire, since we’ve just done a whole lot of work on it, haven’t we? Yeah, so yeah, it has been a great opportunity to think through that, actually. Because I don’t know that I would have been able to articulate this otherwise, really, first and foremost, especially with the world as it is, I think being kind there’s just so much going on for people. And I think being kind and heart-centred, first and foremost, with colleagues as well as visitors is just so important. I think the person first, also integrity, I think, with whatever I’ve done, I really believe in what I do. And I think that that shows will show with the passion with which you deliver your programmes in what you do. And I think in doing that checks, because museums, you know, we’re so potentially contentious. We represent certain versions of history, if you like, or perspectives. And so I think, really being able to look at yourself in the eye at all times and think, have I got that integrity in what I’m doing is really important. Collaboration has also been really vital. I think, often in museum education. I think in most education areas, actually, you can be really isolated when sure in practice, or in the classroom, you’re on your own. And I know from my many years of teaching is people will often put a lot of armour up, they don’t want other people to see them or they feel insecure. But my view is, is that if you can lower those shields and be vulnerable, say, ‘Hey, can you come and watch me? What do you think? Can you give me some feedback?’ And you and you’re really prepared to work with other people. I’ve got this great idea. How about you can just get that to me is the joy of education, actually, you can just build and build and build. So and especially with visitors as well, or students, you can build on their ideas as well. Just a couple of others. I might go for too long. But I think obviously, always being inquiry based and reflective about my own practice has been a hallmark of what I try and do because I just think, again, that really helps to shape what I’m doing and refine it the whole time. Time. And again, if you collaborative, that helps, because you can have peers to debrief with you the whole time. And being super-prepared. We talked about this just the other night. And I find it’s funny. But by being super-prepared, having lots of things up my sleeve, really knowing what I’m talking about, that actually gives me the ability then to be flexible. And to have that, that way of then relaxing enough to read the audience because you know your stuff, you can then look out and see, what’s the mood? How is everyone feeling? Do I need to change here? Do I keep going? And yeah, and then finally, I guess, just continuously learning, I think just keeps everything fresh. So quite a few.
Claire Bown 10:45
That’s great. And you’ve obviously put the work in there, this was part of I’ve explained to people who are listening parts of the course we were doing in the membership, which was all about discovering your own personal style as a facilitator. And as part of that, we looked at our values, didn’t we? And we had to narrow them down probably from a short, a long list of 10 to a shortlist of five values that we came up with. And what I found really interesting about that exercise is that I think a lot of people have these values, but maybe they’re sort of subconscious and not so aware of them. But actually going through the exercise and articulating what your particular values, what the principles are, that uphold your work is really, really important to us as facilitators. And I know listening to you there that I..a lot of mine are in common with yours as well. So I wanted to dig into a few of those. And just talk a little bit about you mentioned, inquiry- based being a really important part of your work. And I know that thinking routines are as well. So could you tell me a little bit about your first experience of hearing about and using thinking routines?
Gabrielle Grime 11:56
Yeah, so I had seen this See, Think wonder routine for quite some time. And I guess because it was devoid of context. I’ve seen it in quite a few museum education things, but I just didn’t really get it. And then last year, as I said, we have a gallery. And we had this absolutely wonderful exhibition called from the Australian War Memorial called For country, For nation. And it tells a story of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people service in the defence of Australia. It’s such a powerful moving exhibition. And I really thought all educators around me to see this. And so I offered to, to assist our gallery curator with the education programme. I thought I don’t really have any experience in delivering much about arts and so what can I do? So I did a whole lot of research, I came across your website Thinking Museum, and there was this fabulous thinking routine called Peel the Fruit. And so it really resonated with me. And so I sat and I looked at particular artworks really thought about the different aspects of the pill, this fruit fruit retain prepared my questions went into this group of your six students thinking, you know, we’ll be lucky, maybe five minutes in front of this artwork of again, be super-prepared. Well, 25 minutes later, I had to kind of draw the students that say we like it by looking at another artwork. Now. They were just, it was just such a revelation to me how? By being so prepared and not acting as the expert, but instead doing that kind of drip feeding of what do you see? And that close observation. And what those students saw was just amazing. I saw some of their teachers and their jaws were dropping. They said they had boys who were talking who never usually talk in class, you know, it was just, and I think that was because I gave them time. And it really made me reflect on how rushed I so often was in the museum. Yeah, so anyway, we looked at another artwork and similar in fact, that was really quite moving and the Aboriginal and Islander Liaison Officer, she started talking about what she noticed, and it moved a lot of us to tears with what she’d noticed from her own personal experience. So yeah, that that I think was the impetus for me to then go, I think I need to learn a lot more about this. And hence I joined the VTMO course.
Claire Bown 14:36
Brilliant, and it’s so interesting hearing you talk about your first experience using thinking routines because I think I had a very similar experience. And I was I knew it was a powerful structure. I knew that it had the potential to perhaps transform conversations about art and objects, but I went into it, I think, quite realistic, thinking, well, you know, let’s see how this goes and I was absolutely blown away by the results when I first used it on the pilot of my programme 10 years ago. And it’s yeah, it’s fascinating that you had a similar experience. How did it feel for you as a facilitator, as an educator when you were facilitating that experience?
Gabrielle Grime 15:20
Well, we had some discussion, I think about flow. And yeah, that that’s how it was i just, i My heart was singing to be honest with you. And and I was just looking around and I could see I could see it in the eyes of other teachers as well. And everyone was engrossed the gallery curator was there to and she said, she just raved about it afterwards. She was she was also blown away, because because there was just that connection between people and the artwork and experience and curiosity. And yeah, it was, it was really powerful.
Claire Bown 15:57
And were you as, as an educator, were you? Did you have nerves before you used it for the first time? How did you feel going into this? Because I know this is, is a common thread that I hear from educators who are switching, perhaps to a different way of working or trying to incorporate more inquiry-based techniques that there’s that fear of not knowing where it perhaps might go? How did you feel kind of just beforehand?
Gabrielle Grime 16:24
Yes, I was definitely nervous. I but like I said, I had prepared a lot. Particularly with the questions, I really wanted to have follow up questions ready, have the perspectives questions ready and have them be able to roll off the tip of my tongue. Because I think that’s to me, that was, and that is a really crucial way of being able to pivot according to where your audience is going. So and I suppose I’d also done a lot of looking, nice close looking myself, although I have to say the students just blew me away with what they saw, there saw so many more things than what I had. But yeah, and I also was quite mindful unconsciously, I suppose. But I did do this pretty well in. We’ve talked about that drip-feeding of information. So because I was aware that we were looking at wartime contexts and racial contexts that maybe 11/12 year olds might not be too familiar with I, I guess I prepared a lot of that material. So that, when it was necessary, I could drop it in. But I was trying really hard not to be a ‘walking label’ in my in my presentation. And and I think that did work that did, again, that did work well, like for the second artwork, I didn’t let the students see the name of it, or the background for it. And I just actually got them to speculate on what they saw. And then I had a student go up and read the artwork, and then the conversation completely changed. And so but that was a wonderful, again, a wonderful thing to do, because they’re always ‘ah’s’ and ‘aw’s’. And it was it was very interesting. So I think some of those practices, yes, it is nerve wracking for sure. But it’s, I think preparation is key.
Claire Bown 18:25
And so rewarding as well, as you say, when you get those, you feel the energy in the group change when you know, perhaps there’s some information that’s been shared, there’s an aha-moment or a wow-moment, and you can just feel it and see it. And it gives so much back to you as an educator to be part of that and facilitating that process. So yeah. Oh, what a wonderful first experience to have. Yeah, I’d love to move on and talk a little bit about the role of Visible Thinking in the Museum. So VTM, the method that I’ve been developing, and I know that you’ve learned this by participating in the VTMO course with me last year. So can you talk about what role VTM plays in your work as well?
Gabrielle Grime 19:11
Yes, so I guess, during the course, has given me a lot of professional skills, I guess, I feel often in my area of education, I’ve been kind of a jack-of-all-trades, but master of none. So I was feeling like I really needed to, to upskill. And what I liked about VTM is you have all of those readings from really influential museum educators. And that was just great because I think it gave me a lot of that really good grounding in museum education. And therefore the confidence, often we have good instincts, but the kind of, um is there evidence around this? but that was that was really useful. I think in my actual practice, I’ve really developed and continuing to develop my questioning skills, I’ve become so aware of that now. And I’ve also been so aware that observation just slowing down and allowing audiences to sit and observe. It’s just such a wonderful thing to do. It really is because it’s without judgement. There’s, there’s no one who’s smarter, or no one who has to have more knowledge, it’s what you see in front of you. And that really opens the door for just so many more conversations and possibilities. And I guess, to thinking really intentionally about my facilitation skills, so how am I introducing myself? How am I setting up a respectful or curious vibe? How am I reading the audience? Being trauma-sensitive, we’ve talked about that now. And I’m much more aware of those aspects of my practice.
Claire Bown 20:57
Fantastic. And I love that you mentioned the readings as well. So as part of the course, there are suggested readings and essential readings every week. And what’s interesting is that some people will devour all the readings. And will take so much from it, and other people are there on the course for the practical elements, and really practising collaborating with others. So I think it’s, yeah, quite an important part of the course that you can dive in and focus on the elements that really matter to you. But it will also give you that comprehensive background to things like questioning skills, facilitation skills, obviously, observation and slow looking, which is something I’d like to move on to now because you’ve mentioned it a couple of times that that has been a bit of a sort of aha moment for you that that using observation using slow looking, how have you, I’ll phase my question better, what role does that play in your work now, since you’ve done the course?
Gabrielle Grime 22:00
Yeah. So I guess, first of all, I use it, I guess, in all of my programmes, because when I when I came into the job, I guess, the programmes were quite well established. And in a way, I suppose I was really much more of a presenter to begin with, rather than a creator and facilitator. And then over the years, as I guess I’ve gathered more confidence, I really started to think how can I tweak this? How can I improve it, and these areas; observing, being much more intentional about object based learning, slow looking, I guess, have been the aha-moments for me in doing the course. So we’ve done observational drawing for some time. But now, I used to kind of present it in a way where I just talked about, look at what you see. And it’s not about your imagination, and I kind of did it in that way of sounds pretty terrible. But now, now, I actually don’t, I don’t even have the drawing at all, we just talk about what we see, first we verbalise it, and then within that, we can then go in a bit more deeply. So for example, this is their Heritage House, we might look at the house together, look at what we notice talk about it, we might look at a bow in the roof, we might discuss that we can look at the materials and how they were made, then we’ll go into the drawing. And that, as you can probably tell, is so much richer, as an experience in a conversation. Similarly, with the object based learning, I’ve been actually presenting to teachers in that area now, because we again, had a few exhibitions and wanted to encourage teachers to come along and develop their skills. And I’ve found a great deal more confidence in thinking about object based learning in the classroom, we have Museums in a Box. So we’ve been able to kind of think about how teachers can take those museums and a box back to the classroom and use those skills. And as far as slow looking, goes, I haven’t done this yet. But I actually have it as part of my KPIs this year, where I’m wanting to trial this. Later this year, we’ll probably do some lunchtime sessions, where again, as staff, then we can go and look at objects and I’ll start to model how to do it. And I’m hoping to get our front of house staff, again, to participate in this as a professional development practice first, and then we can take it out to the broader community because I just think it’s such an enriching experience for staff in their daily work, as well as then being able to offer it to the public as a public programme. Yeah.
Claire Bown 24:42
Oh, I love it. Love it. Incorporating slow looking as a daily practice, as well as incorporating into your work. So, yes, I’m nodding furiously into the microphone. Can you tell me a little bit about any thinking routines that you’ve used, you’ve gone on to use since you’ve experimented with Peel the Fruit? So what sort of role do they play? Maybe share how you’ve used some specific routines.
Gabrielle Grime 25:10
Okay, so the ones that I have done so far have mostly been a See Wonder Connect. And I like that, I suppose, because I tend to, we tend to deliver programmes for years 1-3 in Australia in Western Australia, which is, I guess, ages seven to about nine. Because local history is just a core part of the curriculum here. And so that whole comparison between past and present has been a big one. I was also last year, I really noticed a huge change, we, in our debriefs, we all discussed it in our education team about how much more anxious and how much more just kind of stressed, we noticed the kids were. And so we thought a lot more about mindfulness. And so we’re trialling using soundscapes actually, as a reflection tool. So I had a terrific, I think he’s called an ethnographer. Anyway, he, he worked with us to develop about six or eight different soundscapes from the different exhibits around our museum. So we could have the students lie down and rather than just talk they would listen. So it’s kind of like a Hear Think Wonder, wow. Just because I thought in that way, again, we’re getting off the whole, instead of it being that cognitive visual overload, they can lie down and rest and hear and it’s a different kind of stimulus. So I’ve just in the beginning stages of trialling that and then, kind of we’ve had the museum unfortunately closed, but the initial response was were really, really good. And I usually did it straight after the break. Or especially on like a Friday afternoon, when I could just see these little people were were dog-tired, and being in a museum and being overloaded was just too much. So I, again, I have this in my arsenal, now. It’s not a very nice word, but I have it in my toolkit, if you like to, to use. But also I’m quite interested, we’re trying to do a lot of work again, much more intentionally, thinking about our neuro diverse audiences, we’ve seen an uptick in our Regional Museum, possibly because it’s a small contained area, and fairly quiet. Of Education Support groups come into a museum. And so it’s, and again, from doing the thinking from sorry, from doing VTMO, I’ve really thought a lot more about museums and well being. And so we’ve been looking at how perhaps, certain thinking routines can also be used with neurodiverse visitors especially I think things that are more contained, you know, like Headlines and the 10 x 2 and things like that, where it’s again, it’s looking at what you see, but not being so open ended that it would be overwhelming. And I’ve also noticed that when we have had some groups in, they have really enjoyed connecting to things at home. So again, a lot of the thinking routines work well in connecting. So again, that’s See Wonder Connect or See Think Connect would work really well for those audiences. So as you can tell my head to kind of this bubbling, bubbling pot of possibilities right now.
Claire Bown 28:48
Brilliant, sounds exactly like mine most days. But that’s fantastic. Because that’s the idea is that you take these thinking routines, and obviously on the course, we’re exploring them in a certain way. But the idea is to give you inspiration for how you might be able to implement it in your own particular circumstances, with different audiences with different types of artworks, different types of exhibits, all sorts of things. And it sounds like you’ve had lots of lots of inspiration. And I’m still thinking about the soundscapes and thinking how nice that will be for adults as well.
Gabrielle Grime 29:23
Yeah, that’s true. That’s true. You’re right. Yeah.
Claire Bown 29:27
I’d like to move on to talking a little bit about being part of a community of practice. And I know you mentioned this when you were talking about your values and your principles about collaborating with others. So in the membership, you are a member of the Thinking Museum Membership. Tell me what it’s like to be part of this community of educators that we’re growing
Gabrielle Grime 29:50
Nice, it’s lovely. I really although I have to get up usually 11 or 12 o’clock at night to join. I really look forward to it, because we all know each other, I guess most of the people who are in the membership have gone through the course we went through it together. And it’s kind of like greeting friends now. What I really love the coaching sessions, it’s taken me a while, again, together my courage to do one of the sessions. And that’s where basically, it’s about 15 minutes isn’t clear where we have to prepare a 15 minute session. And we present it to our peers, our community of practice, and then we get feedback. But I did my first one a couple of months ago. Oh, my goodness, I learned so much from it. And I’m just about to do another one next month. Now I’ve got the bug, I love it. But, yeah, it’s a really supportive group, which I like. And, yeah, I mean, I’ve put in, I’ve put out questions now to the group. And I get answers and responses from people. And there’s just a whole lot of support. And again, just that notion of being in education, where you can feel a little isolated, it’s really nice to kind of have that regularity of support and feedback. And I guess for me, as someone who’s just an avid learner, the fact that in the membership, we have so so many interesting courses and ways of challenging ourselves and, and furthering our practice, I just really love it.
Claire Bown 31:27
And it’s amazing. And I have to say this, and I’m recording this. So we there for posterity, how late you get up, and you turn up consistently to our classes. And for a lot of the members. It’s afternoon time, it’s obviously they take place at 5pm My time, that’s Amsterdam time, but that we have people in the States, it’s morning time for them. But for you in Australia, it’s nighttime. So at the end of the class, we’re saying goodnight to you. So I’ve always been so impressed by your commitment and enthusiasm and your energy at that time of night. Very impressive.
Gabrielle Grime 32:04
You don’t know how many coffees? I’ve had no, no.
Claire Bown 32:05
It is exactly how you describe it. It’s lovely that there are so many people that have taken the VTMO course and then gone on to be part of the membership, and be part of this community who explore and share and inspire and also support each other in that way. So yes, creating sort of peer friendships across the world is something that I’ve wanted to do for a long time. So I’m really glad you’re a part of it. So let’s talk about the future. Any plans for future programmes? Anything we haven’t mentioned yet? What have you got bubbling up in the pipeline?
Gabrielle Grime 32:48
Yeah, so we’re, yeah, we’ve just established our neuro diversity working group. So we’ll be we’ll be kind of building on that. And I’m really keen on that. I guess our future plans is to really again, think a lot more about Visible Thinking Routines for older adults to I guess I’m really on this bent now about around museums and well being because I can see that for where we are, we’re in kind of a suburban area, we’ve we’ve got the potential to be a sanctuary as well as a place of learning and inspiration. And I think, I think conversational dialogue and sharing ideas and making connections just has so much potential to reach people in our community. So yeah, so I’m really I guess that’s where my head’s at, at the moment is, is really building on that I’ve been having to do most of my work with school groups, which I love. But I’m really hoping to branch out into the broader audience. If, if I get time. I’m gonna be part time but as time to meet certainly where we’re going. Yeah.
Claire Bown 34:00
Brilliant. Brilliant. Fantastic. So how can people reach out to you? How can they find you? Where do you live?
Gabrielle Grime 34:08
Yeah, sure. So I’m on LinkedIn, Gabriel Grime. You can check out our museum, Wanneroo, just look up Wanneroo Regional Museum, where we’re small but but keen. We all love what we do. And I’m lucky, really lucky to work with just a fantastic team there. They’re really great. So yeah, anytime I’m happy, really happy to talk to people. I just think, yeah, please get in touch and share ideas, or have a chat to me. We’re all learning and it’s great to support each other.
Claire Bown 34:44
Brilliant. I will share links to your museum. I’ll share links to your LinkedIn profile as well. And if anyone wants to reach out to you, I highly recommend having a chat with Gabrielle and sharing your thoughts too. So thank you so much for coming on the podcast today. and sharing some thoughts a picture of your practice. And for joining us today and speak to you soon. Bye,
Gabrielle Grime 35:09
thanks very much Claire!
Claire Bown 35:13
So a huge thanks to Gabrielle for being on the podcast today, we had a lovely chat she could probably hear, and I’m so inspired to hear about all the projects she has planned. If you’d like to join my VT mo course, and transform your practice, please do sign up as soon as possible because starting on the ninth of may, I’ll be taking a small group of professionals through my method, the Visible Thinking in the Museum method. And this will really change, transform the way you work with art, objects and people in the museum forever. This course is a game changer. And if you’d like to be part of our community of practice, and get together with other museum education professionals from around the world to learn together to share to explore and to grow, you can join my membership, the Thinking Museum Membership, I’ll put a link in the show notes for my VTMO course. And also for the membership and if you’re not sure which right for you do get in touch to have a chat. So that’s it for this week. And for the last time happy birthday to the Art Engager podcast. Thank you so much for listening, and I’ll see you next time. Bye Thank you for listening to the Art Engager podcast with me, Claire Bown. You can find more art engagement resources by visiting my website, thinkingmuseum.com. And you can also find me on Instagram @thinkingmuseum, where I regularly share tips and tools on how to bring art to life and engage your audience. If you’ve enjoyed this episode, please share with others and subscribe to the show on your podcast player of choice. Thank you so much for listening, and I’ll see you next time