The Education Department of the Uffizi Galleries
The Education Department of the Uffizi Galleries has a long history. The Department - which was once called “Didactic Section” - was in fact founded in 1970 by Ms. Maria Fossi Todorow and this year, on November, 9th, the office is celebrating 50 years’ activity.
At that time laboratories were carried out with primary and middle school students according to the didactic methodologies that had been developed until then.
Then for years these activities suffered an interruption and lessons and visits to the museum were the main activities of the Didactic Section.
Since 2016 the Education Department of the Uffizi Galleries – which includes School and Youth Area and Cultural Mediation and Accessibility Area, both managed by Ms. Silvia Mascalchi – has been carrying out several projects aimed at different audiences: families with children (divided by age group 7-10 years; 10-14 years), schools of all levels (pre-schools, primary schools, secondary schools of first and second degree: i.e. pupils and students aged 3 to 18), people with sensory disabilities (deaf, blind and visually impaired) and cognitive disabilities, people with autism, immigrants and people from different social, economical and cultural background, in order to meet the needs of various types of public.
All the educational activities of the Department aim to be not only accessible but also inclusive: the Uffizi Touch Tour, for example, has been designed to be a tactile experience on original ancient sculptures not only for blind and visually impaired people, but also for students and visitors. Recently a new instrument has been designed to improve the museum experience of people afflicted with autism: the Uffizi Activity Bag, containing educational materials for exploring the collections and relaxing objects to help reduce stress. All cultural mediation projects aim to stimulate participation besides inclusion: during Factory of Stories project a group of museum professional and foreign citizens created some narratives based on the Uffizi masterpieces and personal experiences of life (all had been recorded and can be listened to on the Uffizi official website). A project dedicated to unaccompanied teenage immigrants was also started up in order to stimulate a positive attitude to life through museum experience and share the value of global cultural heritage. Some immigrant citizens of Florence were also involved in offering free guided tours inside the Boboli Gardens to reflect on the theme “Migration of plants, migration of people” (AMIR project in collaboration with Stazione Utopia).
As for activities dedicated to families, last year a quite unusual project aimed at children aged 0 to 5 years was inaugurated. This project, by Quarteto Gordon, is called Pam Pam: a series of workshops for kids took place at the Modern Art Gallery in Pitti Palace and inside the wonderful location of the Buontalenti Grotto in the Boboli Gardens. Inspired by the principles of Edwin Gordon’s Music Learning Theory, the Quarteto Gordon gives life to concerts made up of sounds from preverbal language only, which helps to enhance musical skills in preschool kids.
As far as the laboratory activities are concerned, now these are developed in a modern key both for families and groups of children attending the Summer Camps organized by the City of Florence.
As for schools - from the Primary up to the Secondary Schools – the Department organizes many different projects (lessons, labs and visits) led by specialised Museum Educators which cover many areas: from the basic introduction to the Museum for the primary schools (My First Museum) to the various historical-artistic tours in all the museums of the Uffizi Galleries for primary, middle and high schools.
Furthermore every year extra activities are organized in collaboration with particularly creative teachers for special events.
As for high schools, much of the Department’s work concerns Work Related Learning Projects for Schools (the Italian law called Alternanza Scuola Lavoro, now PCTO), the most important of which is the project called Art Ambassadors: high school students offer visitors free-guided tours for a work related learning experience in the main museums of the Uffizi Galleries. Thanks to this activity the office has won a European grant for the Erasmus + KA 2 project, with a project called HEROES (HEritage, cultural ROots and innovative peer Education Strategies).
For the next school year (2020-21), due to the Covid 19-Emergency, the office has just planned a brand new PCTO project called Digital Art Ambassadors according to which students specifically taught in the history of a museum of the Uffizi Galleries (Uffizi, Galleria Palatina, Galleria d’Arte Moderna, Tesoro dei Granduchi, Museo della Moda e del Costume) will develop their own video project aimed to promote that site with its own historical and artistic collections.