It’s a snow day. Personally, that means my daughter made her first snow angel of the year on our walk to school, and that I finally made an appointment to get my winter tires on.  Here in the Education Department that means early morning surveillance of the school bus website, cell phone communications with today’s visiting teachers, and wake up calls to program staff to say, stay in bed — or go play in the snow — Albert College has to postpone their trip. And now the Galleries seem strangely empty and quiet with mere adults (!) exploring our exhibits: oh, I know they’re into it, but they don’t tend forget to use their “walking feet” and “indoor voices” quite as often as kids who are engaged in the scavenger hunts, discovery activities and games included in our school programs here.

Compare:

Yesterday’s kids from Queen Elizabeth PS, really into it:

IMG_7958

Adults, really into it:

Note the "walking feet"

Note the “walking feet”

Okay, I’m just kidding really – adults also do this:

Happy wanigan builder

Happy wanigan builder

And this:

I have no idea why. Ask Beth, who can also sign you up to be a happy wanigan-buidler or pack basket... wearer. beth.stanley@canoemuseum.ca

I have no idea why. Ask Beth, who can also sign you up to be a happy wanigan-builder or pack basket… um, wearer: beth.stanley@canoemuseum.ca

Actually, there is an irony here.  As Education Coordinator and therefore the one responsible for all things promotion for our School Programs, I am endlessly on a quest for photos of our visiting kids who, while having fun with our programs, actually LOOK like they’re having fun with our programs.  As soon as you go to take pictures of kids who are really involved with what they’re doing, you find that said kids tend to be frowning, or at least very serious. In order to get kids to look like they’re engaged – according to our culture’s current standards for images of super-amazing fun — I usually have to distract them from what they’re doing.  Which I’m loathe to do.

Let’s compare:

Handling, discovering fur trade goods at our touch table. More specifically, one girl is explaining to another that the mysterious object she's holding is a thimble "like her grandma has".

Havergal College students handling fur trade goods at our Trading Post touch table last Thursday. More specifically, one girl is explaining to another that the mysterious object she’s holding is a thimble “like her grandma has”.

omg we LOVE this copper kettle you've asked us to pose with!

OMG we LOVE this copper kettle you’ve asked us to pose with!

Or:

Polishing the soapstone pendants they've carved.

Grade ones polishing their newly-carved soapstone creations. Completely engaged, not smiling at all.

Or, reconsider the picture from the top of this post:

Bannock-making. Voyageur life AND fractions!

I was learning about Voyageur life and fractions through bannock-making, but now I’m learning it’s more important to mug for the camera

So, taking the best promotional shots puts me at odds with what we are committed to providing here in the Education Department: the opportunity for students to express their curiosity, and to learn experientially and deeply about how their own stories intersect with the stories of the canoe.  Not taking them puts me at odds with keeping our visit numbers high – and if we don’t have the students here it doesn’t matter if I have fabulous and profound education goals. Frankly, I can’t expect Ontario’s busy teachers to deconstruct pictures of slack-jawed, frowning children and, I don’t know, applaud our unconventional integrity, I need to them to look at our brochures and think:   “wow, awesome, I have to take my kids there”.

Of course, the way to avoid all of this is… TA DA!

Solution: pose your own child, and children of other staff, who are not actually taking part in a program, but are being staged around the Museum for 2 hours and rewarded with pizza

Solution: pose your own child, and other staff’ members’ children,who are not actually taking part in a program. Reward them for photo shoot with pizza.

But then we don’t get to share the awesome stuff we’re really doing, in real time, with real visits, and after all, the pizza only goes so far.  And so, I muddle along, trying to strike a balance between the practical and the ideal, and ask myself if perhaps I’m over-thinking it all. It wouldn’t be the first time.