Lifelines/Aspectos Vitais The convergence of Arts, Ecology and Culture in the Amazon and New England

During 2016 and 2017, Stepping Stones Museum for Children in Norwalk, CT and the Museu Paraense Emílio Goeldi in Belém, Brazil, received support through the Museums Connect program, an initiative of the U.S. department of State that is administered by the American Alliance of Museums. Thanks to this prestigious grant program, the two museums were able to forge an international partnership and pair students and teachers from Fairchild Wheeler Interdistrict Magnet High School in Bridgeport, CT with peer students living and attending school in the remote Amazonian community of São Sebastião in Brazil. Entitled Lifelines/Aspectos Vitais: The Convergence of Arts, Ecology and Culture in the Amazon and New England, the project took place over the entire 2016-2017 school year and allowed participants in both countries to compare and contrast the cultural and ecological impacts of their local watersheds. The Maritime Aquarium and Creative Connections, both also located in Norwalk, CT, joined Stepping Stones as major partners on the American side of this project.

Over the course of the school year the project was implemented through the following major components that were tied together by periodic videoconferences and survey assessments: an opening arts exchange, reciprocal travel exchange visits to both communities, two digital storytelling projects and the project culminated with the creation of community plans and museum exhibitions documenting the project.

Travel exchanges are a requirement of nearly all Museums Connect projects. The American team, comprised of eight students from Fairchild Wheeler Interdistrict Magnet High School in Bridgeport, CT and five adult chaperones, visited their Brazilian counterparts deep in the Amazon in November 2016 for two weeks. A Brazilian team comprised of eight students and eight chaperones visited Connecticut in April/May 2017.

Museums Connect is a joint initiative of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and the American Alliance of Museums. The program has paired museums and local communities in the United States and abroad for cross-cultural exchanges that bring people, especially youth, together. Participants have conducted community projects that have addressed timely social issues, such as women and girls’ empowerment, environmental sustainability, and expanding access to quality education. During this ninth and final year of the program, Museums Connect has linked American museums in 30 states and the District of Columbia with partners abroad in 51 countries.

First Step: The RainForest ArtLink Project

50 Students from Bridgeport and São Sebastião conceived, created and exchanged art pieces that illustrated important aspects of their own culture. Both sides gained new perspectives by looking into different world views, and continued to explore them in six live interactive videoconferences throughout the year.

This methodology was perfect to initiate the year-long exchange and set the stage for the in-person experiences they would soon take part in.

First Interactive Videoconference between students in Bridgeport and São Sebastião after receiving art pieces from each other's class

A Creative Connections' Program, The RainForest ArtLink Project promotes the conception, creation and exchange of art and live videoconferencing between US students and those located in the rainforest.

Getting to know each other through Art and Interactive Videoconferences

Second Step: Maritime Aquarium Marine Life Study Cruise

Fairchild Wheeler students received a first-hand understanding of Long Island Sound's interdependent marine life aboard the aquarium’s state-of-the-art 64-foot all-aluminum hybrid-electric catamaran. This research vessel runs virtually silently on electric power. With staff from the Maritime Aquarium, students used various sampling techniques, such as plankton tow, trawl net and biodredge to study a variety of fish, crabs, mollusks and more! A videomicroscope connected to a giant-screen monitor and a large touch tank on board enhanced their observations.

Discovering the Long Island Sound

Third Step: Fairchild Wheeler Students Travel to the Brazilian Amazon

São Sebastião is located in the east bank of the Caxiuanã National Forest, a 740,000-acre protected area in the heart of the Brazilian Amazon.

On the morning of November 22, 2016, after a 20+ hour river boat journey on the Amazon and Anapu Rivers deep into the Caxiuanã National Forest of the Amazon, the American team arrived to spend an entire day in the São Sebastião community before continuing on to a research station operated by the Goeldi Museum in another area of the forest. This is a community with very limited contact with the outside world and one that is only accessible by boat.

One Fairchild Wheeler Student’s Perspective

“Once I was in the community of São Sebastião, I’ve never felt so welcomed in my life. To be surrounded by people that are so happy with your company is the best feeling ever. I wasn’t expecting the students to be so comfortable with us so quickly. We became friends instantly.”

Because Gabriela is fluent in both Portuguese and English, she immediately assumed a leadership role during this special day in the São Sebastião community and later at the research station when the São Sebastião students reconvened with the American travelers for a week-long science camp. The research station was the best part of the whole exchange. It was a place where connections of culture, people, and the environment took place. At both locations Gabriela brought together the students and adults from each country and helped to circumvent many cultural misunderstandings that might have surfaced otherwise.

"For me, being able to speak the language makes it my pleasure to help others. Being able to see people connect with one another just by translating what they said is amazing. Language is something I value, and being able to be a part of this trip and facilitate the lives of others is the best feeling ever."

360 Video of São Sebastião

Discovering the Amazon and our partners in São Sebastião
At the Ferreira Penna scientific station, in the Caxiuanã National Forest

360 Video after Climbing the Research Tower at Caxiuanã

Visiting the collection at the Goeldi Museum in Belém, Pará

Visiting the Goeldi Museum Collection

Travel Video Created by Fairchild Wheeler Students

Fourth Step: Brazilian Students travel to New England

Early on the morning of April 19, 2017, after months of planning and two flights totaling 20+ hours of travel time, the Brazilian team finally arrived in Norwalk, CT. After resting in their hotel rooms, eating in the hotel restaurant, taking showers, and sleeping in their own beds, the team woke the next day and took the hotel shuttle bus to Stepping Stones Museum for Children to participate in the Welcome Ceremony.

Welcome to New England and Stepping Stones Museum for Children!
Science Workshops at Fairchild Wheeler Interdistrict Magnet High School
Exploring Long Island Sound with The Maritime Aquarium
Sightseeing in New York City
Creating prints at Center for Contemporary Printmaking
Visiting Brazilian Community in Danbury, CT

Reflections/Reflexiones

Lifelines/ Aspectos Vitais Project Partners

A Museums Connect project. Museums Connect is an initiative of the US Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs that is administered by the American Alliance of Museums.

About Stepping Stones Museum for Children

Stepping Stones Museum for Children is an award-winning, private, non-profit 501 (c)(3) children’s museum committed to broadening and enriching the lives of children and families. For more information about Stepping Stones, to book a field trip or schedule a class, workshop or facility rental call 203-899-0606 or visit www.steppingstonesmuseum.org

About the Museu Paraense Emílio Goeldi

The Museu Paraense Emílio Goeldi is one of the biggest and most popular museums in Brazil. Founded in 1866, the Goeldi Museum is a Zoo, Botanical Park and Research Center located in Belém, a city in the northern Brazilian state of Pará. The oldest public aquarium in Brazil is one of the attractions of the Park. Located on the western part of the Amazon on the Marajo archipelago in the Caxiuanã National Forest, the Goeldi Museum also features the Ferreira Penna Scientific Station, which carries several science and environmental education actions aimed at schools, both in Belém and Caxiuanã. http://www.museu-goeldi.br/portal/

About Creative Connections

Creative Connections, an international non-profit, connects students in the USA with their international peers through the exchange of art and ideas. Their mission is to help students become global citizens who are prepared to learn, live, work and thrive in the 21st Century. For more information on Creative Connections, visit www.creativeconnections.org

About the Maritime Aquarium

The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit institution whose mission is to inspire people of all ages to appreciate and protect the Long Island Sound ecosystem and the global environment through living exhibits, marine science and environmental education. The Maritime Aquarium receives support from the State of Connecticut DECD’s Offices of Culture and Tourism. https://www.maritimeaquarium.org/

About the American Alliance of Museums

The American Alliance of Museums has been bringing museums together since 1906, helping to develop standards and best practices, gathering and sharing knowledge, and providing advocacy on issues of concern to the entire museum community. Representing more than 30,000 individual museum professionals and volunteers, institutions, and corporate partners serving the museum field, the Alliance stands for the broad scope of the museum community. For more information, visit www.aam-us.org

About the US Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs

The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) promotes international mutual understanding through a wide range of academic, cultural, private-sector, professional and sports exchange programs. The Bureau’s exchanges engage youth, students, educators, artists, athletes and emerging leaders in many fields in the United States and in more than 160 countries. Alumni of ECA exchanges comprise over one million people around the world, including more than 50 Nobel Laureates and more than 320 current or former heads of state and government. For more information, visit http://exchanges.state.gov

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