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Crystal Bridges in the Classroom: Listen to a Guided Student Tour and Read a Q&A with Mr. Hoggatt

a selection of colorful shoelaces around the outline of a map of the united states beneath a sign that says
Image courtesy of Dale Hoggatt.

Crystal Bridges in the Classroom is a program that places teaching artists in the classrooms of elementary schools throughout Arkansas and Missouri. The goal is to teach the class’s existing curriculum using artworks in the Crystal Bridges collection. During the 2021-22 school year, Museum Educator Will Knauer completed a teaching residency with Mr. Dale Hoggatt’s fourth-grade class at Cecil Floyd Elementary School. Below, learn about both Will’s and Mr. Hoggatt’s experiences with the residency and Crystal Bridges in a classroom setting, and take the Student-Led Audio Tour yourself!


A Word from Museum Educator Will Knauer:

The fall of 2021 saw the return of a Museum Educator’s presence in the classrooms of Cecil Floyd Elementary in Joplin, Missouri. One of the 11 elementary schools involved in a Partnership Program with Crystal Bridges, Cecil Floyd welcomed us with open arms and a willingness to not only allow us to bring elements of the museum into their classroom, but to bring the voices of their students back into the galleries of the museum.

The focus of this residency was Colonial America (from the 1600s to the 1800s) and the lasting effects it still has on America today. Utilizing museum-based teaching methods and using artworks from the Crystal Bridges collection, students had a chance to look at art made during Colonial America and learn how to interpret and respond to it. The students were able to see portraits of people who were alive during that time and to hear their voices brought to life through artist letters and manuscripts collected and housed at Crystal Bridges. Students also focused on how contemporary artists are using art to respond to the effects that Colonial America had on other groups of people who were affected by colonization, such as Native Americans and the African Peoples.

a man sits in a chair in a classroom playing guitar
Will Knauer during his 2021 residency at Cecil Floyd Elementary in Joplin, Missouri. Photo by Dale Hoggatt.

The culmination of this week-long residency concluded with students writing their own interpretations to a selection of works of art. Students then had their voices recorded as they recited their interpretations. These recordings will soon be brought into the museum through the Crystal Bridges in the Classroom Student-Led Audio Tour, allowing guests from all over the world to be able to listen to how fourth-graders are responding to and interpreting these works of art.

Take the Student-Led Tour of Crystal Bridges!

During Will Knauer’s residency in Mr. Hoggatt’s class, students were asked to write their own interpretation of an artwork found at Crystal Bridges. A selection of those student-written interpretations were recorded and compiled into the Crystal Bridges in the Classroom Student-Led Audio Tour. Listen to the full tour below, or come to the museum and walk through the tour in the galleries!

African- American woman in magenta stripped dress with vines of flowers climbing up her and weaving into the floral background
Kehinde Wiley, Portrait of a Florentine Nobleman, 2018, oil on linen, 96 × 72 in. Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas, 2019.14.

“I see a woman posing like she’s a star. I see a woman being confident. I see a girl with her face expression thinking she’s the boss, no one can stop her. I see a woman making me confident. I feel when I see this painting that I can do anything that I want to do in life.”

– Landon Santizo, 4th grade student (in response to Portrait of a Florentine Nobleman by Kehinde Wiley)
Cecil Floyd Elementary School, Joplin, Missouri

A Q&A with Mr. Hoggatt

Mr. Hoggatt has been involved with Crystal Bridges for years. We took the opportunity to ask him a few questions about his experiences with the museum and how they have shaped his classroom and teaching curriculum:


CB: What grade level do you teach? Have you always taught this grade level, or have you taught others?

DH: I started teaching in 1995 (do the math). I taught first and second grades for five years in Oklahoma City before moving to Joplin, Missouri. I have since taught in my corner, fourth-grade classroom. At the end of this school year, that will be 27 years in Joplin and 32 years total (Check your work: was your subtraction correct?). I’ve been the Teacher of the Year for Joplin Schools and have received other awards for my performance in the classroom.

This year I plan to retire and find opportunities to continue supporting education. I would like to provide professional development to teachers and schools, work with new teachers and student teachers, and develop lessons and lesson sets. I just completed orientation with the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History and hope to work with them on some incredible projects. My relationship with GLI comes as a result of being named Missouri’s 2021 History Teacher of the Year.


CB: Do you teach a particular subject or all core subjects?

DH: Yes. Actually, our teachers prefer to keep self-contained classes, so we teach all of the core subjects. Working with history and art is a natural fit, and in my class we look at a lot of art from the colonial and revolutionary eras. From the beginning of my relationship with Crystal Bridges, I have pushed for a focus on art from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.


CB: When did you first visit Crystal Bridges?

DH: My son and my wife beat me to it. I think I finally got around to visiting in the summer of 2017, on a whim. I was instantly impressed with the collection and presentation, and pressed forward with getting my peers to take a field trip during the following school year. During the summer of 2018, we all participated in a summer residency and teacher institute at the museum.


CB: Tell us about your first summer residency at Crystal Bridges. How long were you there and what did you learn?

DH: My grade-level teaching team entered a partnership with Crystal Bridges, and we were able to spend a week at the museum in summer 2018. We were quickly immersed in methods of interpreting art with students.  The residency challenged us greatly in some unfamiliar territory. My own teaching was reinforced and affirmed during that week in Bentonville. I was already beginning to incorporate art in my history lessons, but now I had the tools to present it more effectively. It allows me to do so with academic rigor and more understanding than before. Every student in my class is now able to enter the conversation and add something vital to the lesson…

Children viewing the artwork We the People
Nari Ward We the People (black version), 2015, Shoelaces, 8 ft. × 27ft. Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas.

CB: What other projects or partnerships have you been involved with since then (with Crystal Bridges)?

DH: In the last 10 years, I have discovered the best professional development of my career. It started with the teacher institute at Crystal Bridges. During the same summer, I was accepted to the teacher institute at George Washington’s Mount Vernon. The following summer, I was one of 12 educators to travel to Fort Ticonderoga in upstate New York. We spent a week discovering “America’s Fort” and the lifestyles of soldiers during the French and Indian War. We also compared and contrasted the French and Indian War with World War I. Art played a prominent role in each of these historic experiences, and I found what I had learned at the institute in Bentonville to be quite helpful.

Our partnership with Crystal Bridges has also continued since my first summer experience. We have hosted a Museum Educator in our classrooms for a week each year since, and we have taken our classes to the museum each year for field trips (virtually in the spring of our 2020/1 school year). Students have connected with the Crystal Bridges collection–appreciating the details, reacting emotionally with the art, writing about specific pieces in meaningful ways, and creating their own artwork in response. Others have visited for field trips, but our partnership has fostered a deeper connection with specific artwork and installations as well as museum staff and educators.


CB: How many of your classes have experienced field trips at Crystal Bridges? 

DH: By my reckoning, five classes have attended field trips to the museum, but last year was a virtual presentation.

a selection of colorful shoelaces around the outline of a map of the united states beneath a sign that says
Image courtesy of Dale Hoggatt.

CB: How have you been able to incorporate the lessons you learned at Crystal Bridges in your classroom? 

DH: My job as an educator is to get students engaged. When children are engaged with the content, they also bear some interest in it. I have learned not to “give” my class answers without first hearing about what they notice and what they wonder about a piece of art I present to them. They quickly learn that there is nothing too small to point out. They also make inferences by putting the information together and talking things out. In fact, I find myself teaching reading comprehension, literacy skills, and historical thinking by using art instead of text. In this way, they learn to think deeper, even when they don’t read on grade level. The truth is, I use these same methods for math story problems, reading texts, science experiments, and history lessons…Students in my class can hold conversations on just about any subject, and they usually begin with art.


CB: Have you seen any changes in the way your students think or respond to class curriculum based on their interactions with Crystal Bridges?

DH: My students now boldly step up with their observations and inferences. They are not scared to present their ideas about artwork or other items, and they learn how to disagree and ask questions to glean clarity from their classmates. They often find things that I haven’t considered, and they put details to work in their conclusions. They learn to “stay within the four corners” of a piece of art and to back up their conclusions with the observable facts presented by the artist. They cite the item before them instead of basing their conclusions on wild guesses or assumptions. This is rich – not just kids trying to repeat what the teacher has fed them, but kids getting their brains engaged and responding with civil discussion.

That all sets the foundation for the rest of the lesson, and now that my pupils have safely entered the conversation, they can stay for the newest information and skills that I need to present to them. They are invested enough to desire more from me in the presentation, and they are more willing to put forth the effort necessary to perform tasks to accomplish their academic and social goals.