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Emi McFarlen ′09

Hometown: Murray, Kentucky
Major: Art History
Minor: Education
Awesome Fact: Emi’s next exhibit for the Pink Palace Museum will be based on a popular children′s book, “The Scoop on Poop” by Wayne Lynch.

What motivated you to become involved with the Pink Palace Museum?
One day I received an e-mail asking me to interview for an open position in the Bonner Scholars program. So I did, and I got it! I was so excited. I knew I wanted to serve the Memphis community by working with children in a museum setting, so I contacted Dianne McKinna, the volunteer coordinator at the Pink Palace Museum, and the next thing I knew I was doing docent training and beginning to work. As an art history major and an education minor, I love both museums and kids, so my job at the Pink Palace is a perfect fit.

How has your role with the Pink Palace evolved since you began working there?
I started out as a docent in the country store my freshman year. That summer, I did a Summer Service Fellowship and worked at the Pink Palace as an intern in the education department. As an intern, I got to interact with kids and help with the management of their summer camp program. It was such an amazing experience that I wanted to continue working there during the school year. Now I work directly with planning exhibits and coming up with innovative, hands-on activities the kids can do to help them learn.

How do the kids respond to the exhibits you plan?
Many of the kids that visit the museum are visual learners. Kids really love it when they have something they can manipulate. It also seems to really cement the new information they are learning in their minds because it lets them conceptualize it physically in addition to mentally. My first exhibit was “Mendel: Planting the Seeds of Genetics,” for which I made a large Punnett square for the kids to use to solve problems about mice genetics. I also created a puzzle out of DNA to show base pairing. We even did a scavenger hunt through the body where the kids got to look for DNA. It started with a skin model and went all the way down to the level of the cell.

What has been the most rewarding aspect of your work with the Pink Palace?
Definitely those so-called “light-bulb” moments! They are the instances when you are trying to teach something to a child, and you’re thinking he or she is never going to get it, and then all of the sudden, the light bulb goes on! You can see that look on their face, and you know they’ve got it. For a teacher, it’s a moment of pure joy.

What do museums offer from an educational standpoint?
I think that they’re overlooked resources for our youth. If more museums were able to offer free programs for schools, we could greatly enhance our education system. Kids don’t need to be taught through tests—they need to play. And if they can learn by playing, that’s wonderful! We could really do some good things if only we could connect the museums and the schools. That is one of my major goals— to work with schools and museum programs to facilitate more collaboration between them.

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