Arresting Moments: Wonder and the Pedagogy of the Imagination

Wednesday, April 1, 2009
6:30-8:00 p.m.
Rose Art Museum

Co-sponsors: Master of Arts in Teaching/Education program, Department of Philosophy, Cultural Production program, Mandel Center for Studies in Jewish Education, Rose Art Museum.

Series Description

An inter-disciplinary symposium on the “Pedagogy of the Imagination” is held annually at the Rose Art Museum of Brandeis University. The symposium invites consideration of the possibilities and difficulties of conceiving of imagination as the generative force and the justification of educational work at all levels and in all contexts. The symposium creates a space for exploring what could happen if the profoundly human impulse to make—to build, create, conjure up, fashion, fabricate, knit, join, assemble, suppose, imagine—were drawn from the margins to the center of the educational enterprise?

A provocation arising in this symposium is the suggestion that, regardless of setting—community center or university seminar, third grade public school classroom or art museum—one definition of educational justice may be, precisely, the concrete presumption of and provision for the learner's capacity to make, to re-arrange, re-combine, refashion the world in some way that may yet prove necessary.

Our key phrase is borrowed from Italo Calvino, who, in his Six Memos for the Next Millennium (Harvard, 1988), expressed a wish for “some possible pedagogy of the imagination that would accustom us to control our own inner vision.” Each year, participants in the symposium are invited to mediate upon the theme: To develop it, engage in conversation with it, take a spark from it, dispute or quarrel with it, and so forth.

Michael Armstrong delivered the keynote address at the first iteration of the symposium, March 2008.

In 2009, we take up Arresting Moments: Wonder and the Pedagogy of the Imagination.

April 2009 Description

“Wonder” occupies an ambiguous position in educational institutions and pedagogic endeavors. We consider in this symposium the “drop dead” moments of wonder in the face of a great work of art or performance. How are these moments usefully to be understood, framed and built upon? The Medieval Church sought to regiment and appropriate such arresting moments in various ways, and it is interesting to ponder how modern educational institutions, universities among them, at times follow in those footsteps, or might, rather, revel in the ‘punctum’ of creative epiphanies. Case studies in creative pedagogy include encounters with art works in the Rose Art Museum by children and adult students, explorations of disturbing and uncanny moments in children’s literature, art workshops in a public housing development, and reflections on nurturing the unruly imagination in an era of high-stakes testing.


  • Dirck Roosevelt. Introductory remarks: Wonder and the Pedagogy of the Imagination.
  • Andreas Teuber. Learning By Wonder: The History of an Educational Device
  • Rebecca Lennon. Knocking Down the Walls of Suburban Niceties: Discovering the Imagination in Oliver Jeffers' Work
  • Katie Hargrave, Paulo Freire and Educational Models as Art Practice.
  • Amanda Sobel Driver Cultivating an Environment for "Wonderful Ideas": Arts Enrichment in a Public Housing Development
  • Efrat Kussell, Identifying the Imagination: Four Students Discuss How and Why They Use Their Imaginations
  • Dirck Roosevelt and Robin Dash. “First there’s water”: Material affordances for pausing, noticing, imagining, and taking risks.
  • Mark Auslander, Theresa Barbaro Sarah Stephenson, and Emily Mello. The "Wearing our Culture" Project: Partnering with the Rose Art Museum and the Waltham Family School
  • Claire Mauro, The Story of Miriam: Implications for Intergenerational Work in Hard Times
  • Ellen Schattschneider (respondent)

The symposium will be preceded by the opening of the exhibition, ""Saturn Dreaming of Mercury: Art and the Trickster Spirit" (organized by Sage Rogers), Schwartz gallery, 5:00-6:00 p.m.


Mark Auslander (faculty, Anthropology/Cultural Production) Theresa Barbaro (graduate student, Cultural Production) , Sarah Stephenson (graduate student, Cultural Production) , and Emily Mello (Education director, Rose Art Museum)

The "Wearing our Culture" Project: Partnering with the Rose Art Museum and the Waltham Family School.

During Spring 2009 the "Engaged Anthropology" (Anth 182b) class has been partnering with the Waltham Family School, an EvenStart family literacy program, in a project called,"Wearing our Culture, Wearing Ourselves." The project introduces adult new immigrant women students to anthropological approaches to the social meaning of clothes, hair and human adornment. Working together, we have engaged with artworks on display at the Rose Art Museum that foreground the symbolism of clothing and human finery. The women in turn produce "inspiration boards" in which they illustrate and write about important articles of clothing in their own lives and communities; these boards will become the basis of a collaboratively edited booklet on clothing and the social imagination.

  • Turner, Terence S. (1980) ‘The Social Skin’, in Jeremy Cherfas and Roger Lewin (eds) Not Work Alone. Beverly Hills, CA: Temple Smith

Amanda Sobel Driver. (graduate student, Cultural Production)
Cultivating an Environment for "Wonderful Ideas": Arts Enrichment in a Public Housing Development

While working with young children in arts programming, I strive to create a supportive environment that encourages dialogue and creativity within a group-learning process. By taking time to stop, look, share their thoughts, and create artwork of their own, children develop imaginative and incredible ideas. Eleanor Duckworth argues that the having of wonderful ideas is the core of intellectual development. In this paper I examine Duckworth's work and relate her views to the discoveries I have made while volunteering at an after school community center.

  • Duckworth, Eleanor. “The Having of Wonderful Ideas” and Other Essays on Teaching and Learning. Teachers College Press: New York, 1996.

Katie Hargrave (graduate student, Cultural Production)
Paulo Freire and Educational Models as Art Practice.

In this paper, I investigate a specific strain of dialogical aesthetics: to borrow Grant Kester’s term, one that looks to the production of knowledge. Educational platforms as art projects develop out of the participatory turn and are influenced by the works of educational theorist Paulo Freire. Because of their lineage, it is of crucial importance to evaluate these projects within both the criteria of the art trajectory out of which they develop and that set forth by Freire in his magnum opus, Pedagogy of the Oppressed.

  • Freire, Paulo. Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Contunuum: New York, 1970.
  • Kester, Grant. Conversation Pieces: Community and Communication in Contemporary Art. University of California: Berkeley, 2006.

Efrat Kussell. (Teacher, Cambridgeport School; alumnus, Master of Arts in Teaching). Identifying the Imagination: Four Students Discuss How and Why They Use Their imaginations

"Imagination" matters a good deal to some eleven and twelve year-olds, but it functions differently for each. One imagines new worlds and writes about them; another speaks in the abstract (and writes about imagined worlds... and doodles about imagined worlds... etc); a third finds refuge in the imagination; while a fourth is preoccupied with anime, constantly cartooning, and is writing a long story about a Japanese high school and its social scene.

Rebecca Lennon. (graduate student, Cultural Production)
Bearskin and the Mixed Up Self: Reconstructing Identity Through the Imaginary Journey

In reading the Brothers Grimm’s Bearskin, I have found that the nameless protagonist must endure a devil’s dealing, in order to find an identity and something that will tie him to the world. It is Bearskin’s companionship with the devil that forces him to engage in an odyssey that leads him to encounter a purposeful connection—a poor man’s daughter. For this paper I will analyze the trope of the journey with specific interest in Bearskin’s metamorphosis, construction of identity, his connection with the devil, and his discovery of purpose. I will argue that it is only Bearskin’s embodiment of the devil that allows him to engage with the journey, therefore making Bearskin both the protagonist and antagonist of the tale.


Claire Mauro (graduate student, Cultural Production) The Story of Miriam: Implications for Intergenerational Work in Hard Times

I trace the ripple effect of one elder’s participation in an art-based intergenerational project funded by a Massachusetts Cultural Council grant. How can such projects continue to exist? What is the value of one moment of wonder? Does unpredictable outcome negate the possibility of an investment? These are questions encountered in the pedagogical dynamic of “older learner as teacher as older learner”.

Dirck Roosevelt and Robin Dash (faculty members, Master of Arts in Teaching/Education program)
“First there’s water”: Material affordances for pausing, noticing, imagining, and taking risks.

“Making Art” is a curricular innovation in teacher education. It is a structured experience in looking at, making, and thinking about art, for public school children, at the Rose Art Museum, under the direction of an experienced artist-educator, with the assistance of students in the Brandeis Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) program in public elementary education, for whom it serves as a practicum. One aim of Making Art is to help prospective teachers construct a pedagogically informed conception of and commitment to the educative potential of children’s volitional activity as thinkers and makers. Deweyan theories of experience inform this work at several levels. We also find ourselves at home with Calvino in remarks such as the following:

For Ovid…everything can be transformed into something else, and knowledge of the world means dissolving the solidity of the world. And also for him there is an essential parity between everything that exists, as opposed to any sort of hierarchy of powers or values.

In this paper, we present and discuss instances of children’s work produced during Making Art, and begin to trace the apparent potency of the children’s work in the thinking and identity-formation of a young teacher, with attention to the pedagogical supports provided to both children and prospective teachers.

• Calvino, I. (1988). Six memos for the next millennium. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
• Dewey, J. (1989). Art as experience. In J. A. Boydston (Ed.), The later works, 1925-1953. Volume 10: 1934. Carbondale and Edwardsville IL: Southern Illinois University Press.
• Roosevelt, D. (2007, June). Making art. Brandeis University, Master of Arts in Teaching Program.

Further Readings and Resources

  • Michael Armstrong, Children Writing Stories.
  • Caroline Walker Bynum, "Wonder" Presidential Address, American Historical Association, (1996)
  • Mary Baine Campbell. Wonder and Science: Imagining Worlds in Early Modern Europe, Cornell University Press. 1999;
  • Stephen Greenblatt, "Resonance and Wonder"
  • D.W. Winnicott, Playing and Reality