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About the Partnership

The partnership between deCordova and Lincoln Nursery School is the first of its kind at a contemporary art museum in the United States, and was recently named one of the “most innovative projects in the country” by the American Association of Museum’s Center for the Future of Museums. Inspired by the preschools of Reggio Emilia, Italy, Lincoln Nursery School (LNS) believes that children find meaning, build connections, and reveal their theories about the world through inquiry, play, materials, and relationships.

DeCordova’s 30-acre campus affords daily interaction with nature, art, artists, and museum operations and staff, encouraging experiential learning through all of the senses, which is at the core of LNS’s mission and among deCordova’s principles. 

The studio classrooms offer a rich, exploratory environment for children. Teachers facilitate connections between the children’s interests and the many learning opportunities that deCordova offers. Regular meetings between LNS faculty and deCordova’s Learning & Engagement staff reinforce the institutions’ collaborative approaches as the educators work together to continuously support student inquiry and learning, using the museum campus, staff from various departments, changing exhibitions, and visiting contemporary artists as inspiration. Everyday engagements – whether a planned visit with an artist installing in the Museum or a fortuitous glimpse at a crane removing a sculpture the Park – have made deCordova an integral part of each child’s and family’s experience, informing the way they learn and explore both in and outside of school.

LNS and its progressive educational approach in turn inform deCordova’s development of programs where young people and parents discover and learn side-by-side, and where collaborative, participatory learning is promoted among museum visitors of all ages. DeCordova’s 2011 Strategic Plan describes the goal of becoming a leader among this country’s sculpture parks by 2016 in part by offering innovative curatorial and educational programming that includes the LNS partnership among other ongoing programming and facilities initiatives.


Partnership History

September 2010 marked the dynamic beginning of the unique partnership between deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, a contemporary art organization located 20 miles west of Boston, and Lincoln Nursery School (LNS), a cooperative preschool for two- to five-year olds located nearby for over sixty years. After a long history of class visits to the Sculpture Park and Museum, LNS and deCordova developed a pilot program that integrated one of the four LNS classes onto deCordova’s campus.

The success of the pilot led the Boards of both non-profit institutions to vote to become full partners during the second pilot year in 2011-12. LNS completed its move to deCordova at the beginning of the 2012-13 school year, where the partnership continues to develop with four studio classrooms, sixty children, and staffs of both institutions immersed in an extraordinary collaborative site for exploring and discovering art, science and nature, ecosystems and museum systems, artists and the public.


Lincoln Nursery School Experiences

In September 2011 the Lincoln Nursery School Pilot Class visited the Museum and discovered Soo Sunny Park and Spencer Topel’s Capturing Resonance  and began making sense of the this inspiring installation through play, storytelling, inveatigation, and experimentation. This project continued to inform classroom activities and projects throughout the school year, and still has resonance today in the LNS classrooms through tools and materials developed at that time.

Children's response to Capturing Resonance:

  • “It’s shaking.”
  • “What is it?"
  • “I feel scared.”
  • “Makes me shake like a volcano.”
  • "It’s shaking and shaking and shaking.”
  • "Feels like it is coming alive.” 

The months following this conversation were filled with many trips back to what the children called the ‘sea serpent,' an exploration of transparent and translucent materials in the classroom, a sculptural creation of a sea serpent in the classroom, paintings, and correspondence with the artists. These are just a few of the ways that the children have explored this piece, which they continue to do today.