The History of Museum Educators, Part Two: Children’s Museums

December 12, 2019

Last week I wrote about my reaction to part of this edition of the Journal of Museum Education, a publication by Museum Education Roundtable. I continued to read the Journal and after I finished reading the Journal, I thought I would give my thoughts on the rest of it. As I mentioned last week, the articles made me think about my previous experiences. This week while I read the rest of the Journal, I thought about my experiences in children’s museum. While these articles reminded me of my experiences, I always find more to learn in the Journal of Museum Education.

The most recent edition of the Journal of Museum Education, for instance, had a couple of articles focused on children’s museums. In the article “Museums for Somebody: Children’s Museum Professionals and the American Association of Museums (1907-1922)”, Jessie Swigger discussed the origins of children’s museums and the contributions of museum professionals in these children’s museums. Swigger discussed the first three children’s museums in the world opened in Brooklyn, New York (1899), Boston, Massachusetts (1913), and Detroit, Michigan (1917). She examined contributions of children’s museum professionals and museum education through presentations at the American Association of Museums (now known as the American Alliance of Museums) given by the curators of the first three children’s museums: Anna Billings Gallup’s (Brooklyn), Delia I. Griffin (Boston), and Gertrude A. Gillmore (Detroit). The review of papers delivered to their colleagues demonstrated how their pioneering educational approaches, including encouraging visitors to interact with objects and creating opportunities for children to become empowered and invested museum visitors, continue to shape the field. Also, the article pointed out the value of including children’s museum professionals in conversations on museum education. Another article about children’s museums revealed another example of the value of children’s museum professionals contributions to conversations on museum education.

In the article “What Caregivers Observe about Their Children’s Learning During a Visit to the Children’s Museum” by Jessica J. Luke, Eileen D. Tomczuk, Susan Foutz, Nicole Rivera, Lisa Brahms, Kari Nelson, Barbara Hahn, Melissa Swank & Kimberly McKenney, they pointed out that while significant research focused on caregiver-child interaction in children’s museums little is known about what caregivers might be observing or perceiving about their children’s learning. The article discussed a study conducted by the Children’s Museums Research Network to examine what caregivers observe about their children’s learning during a visit to the children’s museum. Data were collected through online questionnaires (N=223) and follow-up phone interviews (N=20) with caregivers recruited from eight children’s museums across the U.S. Results show that caregivers could identify numerous things they discovered about their child(ren) in the museum, including their interests, social skills, thinking/problem-solving skills, and emotional regulation. What contributed most to these discoveries was opportunities to watch their children play and interact with others, and to play with unique materials and activities that they don’t have access to at home. The signage and floor staff were seen as minimally important. These findings have implications for exhibit design and staff facilitation in children’s museums.

As a museum professional who has experience working in a children’s museum, I loved learning more about the history of children’s museums and what other children’s museum professionals have discovered about children’s learning in their research. The research reinforced what I learned about how children learned and interacted with museum exhibits. I learned in my experience in a children’s museum about the constructivist method which allowed children to get involved in the process of their own learning; what I learned in my experience is that the constructivist method cannot be relied on alone to educate children, and therefore a little bit of instruction is important to give children context to what they need to learn. In a couple of blog posts I have written, I wrote about children’s museums and my experience in a children’s museum.

The post “Maker Space: Museums Can Benefit from Having a Creative Space” is where I related what I learned in the children’s science museum Maritime Explorium and how I translate my experience from historic house museums into the newer experience. Another blog post I wrote was “Is Children’s Play Declining? What are Museums Doing to Encourage Playtime” in which I wrote about my reaction to an article in the Huffington Post called “Children’s Play is Declining, But We Can Help Reclaim It.”

By reading these articles in publications such as the Journal of Museum Education, museum professionals and museum educators share their knowledge and learn from one another to help move the museum field forward.

Resources:

Jessica J. Luke, Eileen D. Tomczuk, Susan Foutz, Nicole Rivera, Lisa Brahms, Kari Nelson, Barbara Hahn, Melissa Swank & Kimberly McKenney (2019) What Caregivers Observe about Their Children’s Learning During a Visit to the Children’s Museum, Journal of Museum Education, 44:4, 427-438, DOI: 10.1080/10598650.2019.1672136

Jessie Swigger (2019) Museums for Somebody: Children’s Museum Professionals and the American Association of Museums (1907–1922), Journal of Museum Education, 44:4, 345-353, DOI: 10.1080/10598650.2019.1663685

https://lookingbackmovingforwardinmuseumeducation.com/2017/06/23/maker-space-museums-can-benefit-from-having-a-creative-space/

https://lookingbackmovingforwardinmuseumeducation.com/2017/07/20/is-childrens-play-declining-what-are-museums-doing-to-encourage-playtime/

History and Museums Interpreted Through Children’s Media

Added to Medium, August 10, 2018

This week’s post is about museums and history being interpreted in children’s media such as books and television shows. By using children’s media to discuss history and museums, adults have the opportunity to introduce history and museums to a whole new generation to emphasize the significance of preserving and protecting history and our resources to connect with the past with our present. We are lucky that there are many different resources for children to learn more about history and museums. Because there are so many to go through, I decided to focus on books and television shows that I came across recently then give my impressions of the mediums. I also included a list of other television shows and books I came across while researching for this blog post.

Children’s television shows provide educational programming to help young kids understand the world around them and encourages them to ask questions so they can learn more about what they see on television. Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) kids shows are great example of broadcasting children’s shows that are both fun and educational. One of those shows, one that I grew up watching, was Mr. Rogers Neighborhood hosted and created by Fred Rogers. Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood talked about different subjects between 1968 and 2001, from everyday fears related to going to sleep, getting shots to losing a loved one to death. He used talking directly to the children, simple songs, and segments from the Neighborhood of Make-Believe to get his points across. Also, Mr. Rogers would use a picture frame to take a closer look at various events such as showing children how crayons are made.

In the second season seventh episode Mr. Rogers introduces the episode by telling the audience (or kids) he is taking them to an art gallery . Before they leave, he shows the viewers a couple of paintings from post cards they will be able to see there, and reminds them to look and listen carefully when they visit the gallery in a museum. In other words, as one looks at the paintings they should listen to the thoughts and questions they have about the paintings they see. At the Neighborhood Art Gallery, they meet Bae Jetson who shows them paintings and Mr. Rogers talked with Bae about what he observes in each painting such as what is going on in the painting itself and who painted each one. For instance, in a painting of a farm the artist grew up on Mr. Rogers kept talking about how he could look at the painting all day because there is so much going on in one painting. This episode shows children what it is like to observe paintings in the gallery space. It encourages children to use their imaginations to see what may be going on in a painting, and reveals that there are so many different types of paintings made by many artists and even one artist can create different types of painting.

What I also like about the Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood episode was that Bae Jetson pointed out something that we are talking about and making sure people understand even today: museums are for everyone. Museum professionals like myself have been working on ways how we can show individuals we are a part of the community and everyone in the community should have the opportunity to have access to what we offer in our museums.

Not all children’s television shows focusing on history and museums were as impressive to me. Most recently I discovered a show on Netflix called The Who Was Show, a sketch comedy and history program in which a character named Ron played by Andy Daly who interacts with a group of teenagers and it is interspersed with historical vignettes and narrated by H. Jon Benjamin. The show is based on the Who Was…? book series published since 2003. I saw the first four episodes of the thirteen episodes aired, and it was hard for me to get through them as well as continue watching the rest of them. While I knew that I am not the target audience for the show, it is not a show that I would recommend even to the children that are part of the target audience since it talks down to its viewers with their “lessons”. Even though I liked that it shared information about historical figures and attempted to compare and contrast each of them, the show is too formulaic and shoves the lessons and jokes in the viewers faces. For instance, in the first episode they compared Benjamin Franklin and Gandhi by pointing out that they were both bald and stood up against British oppression then proceeded with forced sketches, and at the end of each episode had a “what we learned today?” and an animated press conference talking to the historical figures about what they liked the most about being on the show and what a great show it was if they have not hammered that fact in enough throughout each episode. It tries too hard to convey the idea that history is cool, and I believe it is not the best way to retain the audience’s attention.

A similar show I grew up watching also used sketches to convey information about historical events and figures but did so in a way that did not seem to be forced down the audience’s throats. The show Histeria! aired on Kids WB in the United States between 1998 and 2000, and it derived most of humor from its slapstick comedy and satire, and had the distinction of combining historical figures and events. Unlike the Who Was Show, it did not feel like they were forcing the idea that history is cool and that it is a great show. It did not need to talk about what a great show it is and that history is cool because these ideas were already conveyed through the sketches, songs, and other segments. Television is not the only medium children could learn about history and museums.

Books have been used long before televisions were invented, and would continue to be used to help children learn especially about history and museums. I discovered in recent years the I Survived series of books mainly written by Lauren Tarshis which talked about various historical events and disasters that fictional characters went through. I read I Survived the American Revolution, 1776 on a recommendation by one of the Education Committee members at the Three Village Historical Society. The book is about an eleven year old boy who found himself in the middle of the battlefield during the American Revolution fighting against the British. It is not only an easy read for children but it also provided an insight that introduces the reader to what the American Revolution was in our history.

There are also numerous books that either featured museums or were centered around museums. One of the books I came across was A is for Artist: A Getty Museum Alphabet by John Harris which shares details from paintings on display at the Getty Museum used to illustrate the alphabet; one example is I is for Iris painted by Van Gogh. Harris’s book could be easily used as a guide to the Getty Museum by looking for the details printed for each letter. Another example of a children’s book about museums is Behind the Museum Door: Poems to Celebrate the Wonders of Museums selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins and illustrated by Stacey Dressen-McQueen. Hopkins’ selections captures childhood curiosity, and translates their questions and musings about museum objects into verse. Also, there are poems that speak to fascinating artifacts such as fossils, mummies, and dinosaur skeletons. There are also more recommended books for children about museums in the list from the National Endowment for the Arts blog.

What books about history and museums have you come across that children enjoy? How do you feel about television programs for children that educates them about history?

Resources:
National Endowment for the Arts: https://www.arts.gov/art-works/2015/childrens-books-about-museums
Mister Rogers Neighborhood: https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x5itxry
https://www.amazon.com/Inside-Museum-Childrens-Guide-Metropolitan/dp/0810925613
https://www.amazon.com/Survived-American-Revolution-1776-15/dp/0545919738/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1533872776&sr=8-2&keywords=i+survived+bookshttps://www.amazon.com/Survived-American-Revolution-1776-15/dp/0545919738/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1533872776&sr=8-2&keywords=i+survived+books
https://isurvived.scholastic.com/
https://mommypoppins.com/kids-books-nyc-museums-childrens-books-moma-metropolitan-guggenheim
https://www.amazon.com/History-Historical-Fiction-Childrens-Books/b?ie=UTF8&node=2917
The Who Was Show: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt7488702/
Histeria!: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0175738/
https://www.workingmother.com/content/8-historical-tv-shows-kids
https://www.travelchannel.com/shows/mysteries-at-the-museum
Museum Impressions, Plimoth Plantation: https://wp.me/p8J8yQ-qa
Does History Repeat Itself? A Discussion About This Concept: https://wp.me/p8J8yQ-rV
People’s Experiences during the Great Depression: https://wp.me/p8J8yQ-rA

What is the Benefit of Museum Partnerships?

Added to Medium, February 9, 2018

In previous blog posts, I have talked about how important it is for museum professionals to collaborate. Museums can also benefit in forming partnerships to work on projects to bring in more visitors and awareness to our organizations. We can learn a lot from each other on how to draw visitors’ attentions. I was inspired to write about museum partnerships based on my recent experience in meeting with another museum professional and planning visits between two museums. Also, I saw various articles written about partnerships formed for greater purposes for the community.

The articles I came across pointed out that partnerships come in different sizes and ways for their community. Seema Rao has talked about different types of museums and how there is potential for museums to create partnerships that will benefit all parties. Also, museums can also come together to promote their programs, lectures, exhibits, and other events to discuss the importance of art and technology. Another article I came across was an article in an early childhood educators’ journal that discussed why museums are beneficial for young children and how early childhood educators can utilize museums’ services.

In her article, called “What Can Museums Learn from Each Other”, Seema Rao pointed out that in order to maintain and increase audience members “museums of all kinds should be looking to others to see what is working.” Rao discussed what art and science museums have to offer, and the benefits of having art and science museums work together. She stated that “Art museums have already seen the power of interactives, and environmental installations. Science museums could learn from art museums on ways to draw adults.” While there is potential for art and science museums to collaborate, there is also potential for history museums can also learn from art and science museums on drawing more visitors into our organizations.

History and historic house museums assimilate art and science topics in their programs especially school programs. When I worked in history and historic house museums, I have taught school programs that talked about what paintings can tell us about what life was like in the 19th century. Also, in historic house museums specifically I have taught students how to cook 18th century recipes by using mugs since there were no measuring cups to accurately measure ingredients for a chemical reaction. Museums can form partnerships to learn from each other about bringing visitors in and sharing knowledge about topics.

As an Education Committee member at the Three Village Historical Society, I joined the rest of the committee to visit a museum in Connecticut to see what they had about volunteering and the exhibits they have in their spaces including a small section about the Culper Spy Ring. We met with the Director of Education who showed us around as well as answered questions we had about volunteers and developing volunteer programs. We continue to make connections with the museum to share with them our resources about the Culper Spy Ring.

Museums can also come together for educational purposes such as the relationship between art and technology.

There are fourteen Boston-area arts and culture institutions are teaming together to show how technology has affected our relationship to art. Each of these organizations planned a series of exhibits and panels between now and July. For instance, the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum has an exhibit called ‘Cool Medium: Art, Television & Psychedelia, 1960 – 1980’ through March 11th; the exhibit explores color television’s relationship to art of the era and its connection to mind-altering substances and spirituality. In Tufts University’s Art Galleries, artist Jillian Mayer creates furniture specifically designed to support human bodies as they interact with cellphones, tablets and computers.

Museums can be appealing to all ages especially young children, and partnerships between museums and early learning institutions recognize they can help children reach their full potential. The NAEYC, an organization that promotes high-quality early learning for all children, birth through age 8, by connecting practice, policy, and research, publishes a journal series called Young Children and one of their editions talked about the importance of creating partnerships with museums.

In the March 2016 edition of Young Children, an article called “Creating Meaningful Partnerships with Museums” discusses why museums are beneficial for both young children and early childhood educators. They argued that museums have much to offer young children, and described in detail how children at various age levels including but not limited to infants, toddlers, and preschoolers benefit from what museums offer.

According to Sarah Erdman, who wrote the article, teachers working with infants have seen firsthand how babies respond to stimulus such as high-contrast objects and bold images. By bringing infants to museums, they would be exposed to museum collections which have a wide variety of sizes, colors, textures, and movement. Also, museum exhibits can help advance language development and teachers are encouraged to talk to babies using rich and varied vocabulary. Finally, museums can be flexible in giving time for infants and their adults to interact with exhibits and because of this they may be explored at a time and pace suitable for infants and often have spaces set aside for baby care.

The article also discussed how toddlers can benefit from interacting with museums exhibits and programs. Museums can speak directly to a toddler’s ability to connect with concrete objects, and the variety of objects can also help toddlers understand that familiar objects such as houses can come in many shapes and sizes. Like infants, toddlers need flexibility and museums are able to accommodate for teachers to create experiences that work for their classes.

As a museum professional who is working in a children’s science museum, Erdman’s arguments are to my knowledge accurate since kids at the Maritime Explorium learn STEM lessons through hands-on activities and events. The Maritime Explorium’s preschool program, Little Sparks, shows children how fun learning can be while they develop the skills they need to reach their full potential.

We should continue to reach out to other museums and organizations to keep our institutions going strong.

What examples of museum partnerships have you experienced or read about? What benefits and challenges have you faced when maintaining partnerships?

Resources:
https://brilliantideastudio.com/art-museums/what-can-museums-learn-from-each-other/
www.wbur.org/artery/2018/02/07/art-tech-collaboration-exhibitions
https://www.naeyc.org/resources/pubs/yc/mar2016/creating-meaningful-partnerships-museums

Museum and School Partnerships: Why They Are Important for Education

Added to Medium, September 21, 2017

To provide educational opportunities for students of all grade levels and abilities, museums and schools can benefit from forming a partnership with each other. As museum professionals know well, museums provide various resources for individuals of all ages. This is true for P-12 students who attend public, private, and home schools.

When museums and schools form a partnership, they will be able to help each other fulfil their goals and needs in education. Schools can benefit from this partnership since museums provide examples of how schools can broaden their approach beyond the narrow focus on academic work.

According to Evie Blad in her article “Scientists to Schools: Social, Emotional Development Crucial for Learning”, the social, emotional, and academic development are significant and central to students’ learning. Students must develop various skills that will be useful for the world outside of the classroom. For instance, the skills students need to be successful in the classroom and in life can be grouped into three areas: cognitive skills (beliefs and attitudes that guide one’s sense of self and approaches to learning and growth), emotional competencies (enables them to manage emotions and understand others’ emotions and perspectives), and social and interpersonal skills (enable them to read social cues, navigate social situations, resolve interpersonal conflicts, and to demonstrate compassion and empathy toward others).

Museum programming not only allow students to participate in activities that assist in understanding of academic materials in the classroom but the programming offer ways for students to develop the skills necessary to effectively integrate social, emotional, and academic development. In the museum programs, especially in historic house museums and museums I have worked and currently work for, they encourage students to understand their own capabilities and develop those skills to improve their knowledge.

Also, museum programs can show students opportunities to make emotional connections to narratives presented in exhibits. In historic house museums, for instance, museum educators share relatable stories of the people who lived in these houses through programming they will be able to identify with them. Museums can also educate students on making emotional connections through the programs that help them serve the community.

Maritime Explorium, for instance, has a program that not only teaches students how to build catapults to launch items (to measure distance) educators encourage their students to bring home their catapults as well as clay balls with native plant seeds inside to launch them into the dirt. By launching the seeds, they will help keep their environments healthier.

Educational programs in museums also encourage students participate in activities that encourage them to use and develop social as well as interpersonal skills. Students are encouraged to gather into groups to use teamwork to accomplish activities in the programs. Museums and schools can benefit from a partnership by creating opportunities for students to be inspired.

Students have opportunities to develop a lasting interest in museums. It is especially important to encourage young students to appreciate what museums have to offer. Anne Forgerson Hindley’s contribution to Alliance Labs, “Why Museums Should Care About Young Children”, went into details about why museums are focusing more on attracting early learners to these institutions. For instance, museums allow children to explore their interests through outlets including authentic objects, hands-on exhibits, and activities.

When the students explore their interests, they are able to express their creativity and their generous willingness to share their ideas. Museums offer programs that create these opportunities to express their creativity. As educators encourage their students to visit more museums, museums subsequently have an increase in serving their communities better and create more robust experiences for visitors of all ages.

The more times students visit museums for their programming, the more they are likely to develop their education that will make them more informed as well as well-rounded individuals making their communities better for the future.

For parents, guardians, and chaperones, how have your children’s experiences in museums made an impact on them as individuals? What examples can you share about museum-school partnerships that worked in your institutions? Please share your thoughts on museum-school partnerships.

Referred to in the Blog:
http://labs.aam-us.org/blog/why-museums-should-care-about-young-children/
http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/rulesforengagement/2017/09/scientists_to_schools_social_emotional_development_crucial_for_learning.html

How Education Supplies Are Significant in Museum Programming

Added to Medium, September 14, 2017.

Supplies for programming in museums are endless and are selected based on the needs of each program. There are various ideas for museums to create school and public programs from, and they are based on each institution’s missions and educational goals. Since there are different ways educators can plan their school and public programs within their missions, we have to plan what supplies and how much supplies are needed as they plan the programs.

For instance, if a historic house museum focuses not only on its history and the family that lived there but also focus on serving the community, programs are planned to support the study of history and connect with members in the community to be relevant in its community.

School program supplies include but are not limited to paper, pencils, markers, crayons, paint, scissors, color pencils, and ink. Public program supplies include but are not limited to supplies used in school programs (depending on what program is planned for what audience), food, drinks, cups, and plates. The previous examples are supplies I have personally used, and have been in charge of the supply inventory in my career as a museum educator.

Depending on what an education department needs, many stores provide the typical supplies needed. If the programs require specific items not found in stores, there are places that museums partner with to provide materials needed. At the Long Island Museum, for instance, they had school and other children’s programming that allow them to pretend to turn over hay outside the barn on the Museum’s campus; the education staff travel to a farm stand that sells hay, and makes a purchase that should last throughout the school year.

An important issue in education programming museums have to address each year is funding for these programs. It is also an issue that educators faces in the school system.

I came across an article from Education Week called “Teachers Spend Hundreds of Dollars a Year on School Supplies. That’s a Problem.” Written by Ann Ness (executive director of the Minneapolis-based nonprofit AdoptAClassroom.org), the article discussed how teachers have spent a lot of their own money to provide the supplies needed for their classrooms. According to Ness’ article, a survey of more than 1,800 public and private school teachers conducted in the 2015-16 school year stated that the average American educator spends $600 of their own money every year on basic supplies and they not only cover typical staples such as copier paper or colored pencils, but also go toward clothing and personal hygiene necessities for students who need them. Ness argued that educators need to have a better way to be able to have plenty of supplies for their students, and the students and parents need to urge their local school districts and state legislatures to adequately fund education that is able to provide supplies for students in need.

This article made me think about how this fact also applies to museum educators who need to purchase items for their programs. For each year, education departments in each museum have to figure out funding for education supplies.

Like educators in public and private schools, many museum educators use the money out of their own pockets to support the programs. At Connecticut Landmarks, for instance, one of my former co-workers would purchase food such as cookies and vegetables for the Cultural Cocktail Hour program that promotes local artists’ works. It is also possible for museum educators could be reimbursed for their purchases especially when there is room in the budget to reimburse them.

Whenever a museum educator purchases items for the program or programs, a receipt is saved so the director of the education department or executive director would sign off on the purchase and provide a check to give to the museum educator. To provide the funds to reimburse the education staff, the education budget includes an amount that has to be spent on supplies and should be enough to provide a part in the budget to give money to educators that purchase items for the museum.

The majority of the funds that support museum programming, and on a larger scale to keep museums running, come from grants that museums have to apply for each year. In each grant application, museums have to address what they hope to accomplish when they receive the funds. When they applied for grants they have previously received funds from, museums must address how much they have accomplished with the grant in the previous year(s) and how the grant would be essential for the upcoming year. This is an understanding that was reaffirmed while I was assisting the executive director at the Maritime Explorium on part of a grant application to keep the museum running programs for visiting children.

To be able to successfully run programs that make an impact on our audiences, we need to be able to get access to supplies.
What supplies do your institutions use for your programming? Are there other ways your organization or institution find funding for programs?

Here is the link to the article I referenced in this post:
http://www.edweek.org/tm/articles/2017/08/02/teachers-spend-hundreds-of-dollars-a-year.html?cmp=eml-enl-eu-news2

How Do We Educate Our Students About Charlottesville?

Added to Medium, August 17, 2017

Museum educators continue to prepare for school visits as the new school year approaches. As I was preparing for the upcoming school year, I as well as everyone in this country found out about the white supremacists rally and the attack that occurred on Saturday in Charlottesville, Virginia. It made me sad to learn that this is occurring in our country, and more importantly I thought about the future generations trying to understand how and why this is occurring in our nation. Museums and history organizations made their statements on what has happened in our country and their stand on these tragic events. We, as museum professionals, have this one question in mind: how do we educate our students about what is happening in Charlottesville?

Throughout the museum and education community, I have seen many organizations have spoken about these events. The American Alliance of Museums stated in their newsletter and Twitter account “There is absolutely no place in society for the kind of hatred, racism, and violence that were on display this past weekend, and we offer our deepest condolences to the victims, their families, and the community.”

The American Association for State and Local History also released a statement on the events in Charlottesville. They reinforce the importance of this organization, and what it stands for in this nation. AASLH
“abhors not only the violence of the clash in Virginia, initially over a Jim Crow era statue, but the hateful misunderstanding of history, the cruel misuse of the past, and the willful blindness to the historical record by the forces of white nationalism. As the national professional association for individual members, historical societies, history museums, and history sites that preserve and interpret state and local history, the AASLH stands for open discussion, reasoned research and interpretation, reliance on evidence and current scholarship, and the preservation of historical resources.”

Museums are not the only organizations that have made statements about the events in Charlottesville. Facing History and Ourselves, a nonprofit international educational and professional development organization that engages students of diverse backgrounds in an examination of racism, prejudice, and anti-Semitism to promote the development of a more humane and informed citizenry, released a message as well.

Roger White, President and CEO of Facing History and Ourselves stated in an email sent to newsletter subscribers:
“As educators, our first concern is the millions of young people watching Charlottesville unfold. As we return to classrooms across the United States and the world, we will be called upon to manage difficult conversations about the evil, base bigotry at play. We will need to provide historical and cultural context for the violence, for the references to Nazi language and events, and for the legacy of slavery in the U.S. that underlies the pain we see across the nation today.” Roger White, August 14, 2017.

As I read through these statements, I thought about how we should explain these events to our children and students. It is important to express that we should be accepting of every person within our community. One of the resources I read which I agree with is an article written by CNN’s Jessica Ravitz on the topic of what we should be telling children. According to Jessica Ravitz, we should be proactive, not just reactive; don’t ignore; and empowering kids as well as yourself.

Children should be taught at an early age to appreciate diversity and practice empathy at home, in the classroom, and within their community. Also, it is important for parents, guardians, and teachers to be honest and frank about these events in an age-appropriate way, as well as reassure them they are safe and remind them there is still good in the world. I agree with these tips because we all should be able to make the choice to take a moral stand and do not support hate crimes.

Teachers should be able to encourage students to learn about different cultures and identities in addition to what had happened in our past to understand why we should continue to work at decreasing the hate in our communities and nation.

What should museums do to help educate students about what happened in Charlottesville? Museums need to continue to fulfil their education missions, and inspire people to learn more about the community around them to learn how to appreciate diversity in addition to practicing empathy. According to Paul Orselli’s blog post, “What can museums do to resist?”, now is not the time for museums to be “neutral” or to sit on the sidelines. He has a point that museums should not be neutral because we create a space where people can come together to acknowledge our past and help one another respect and appreciate each individual from all backgrounds through our collections and programming.

Various museum professionals have been vocal about what has happened in our country, and what we should do moving forward. Seema Rao for instance wrote a post for Nina Simon’s blog Museum 2.0 called “How Museums Can Resist Racism and Oppression”. Seema wrote this post in response to a program she participated called MuseumCamp (a summer professional development program at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History) in addition to the news on what happened in Charlottesville. Both Nina Simon and Seema Rao started an open Google Doc to assemble ideas for specific things both museums and museum professionals can do to resist oppression.

Some of the ideas from the Google Doc include staff can share their feelings together; have an open ear for those that need to express their feelings, thoughts, ideas, vent, etc.; raise money for organizations that support inclusion; educate themselves on anti-racist terminology, history, activities, and opportunities; and reach out to colleagues in Charlottesville with unencumbered, unquestioning support.

Also, in the Google Doc, museums could, but not limited to, host conversations for visitors; if open conversations are not possible, then provide open talk-back boards (remember to talk back); model inclusion in their programming, work together in regions to create safe spaces for inclusion; and offer space to local NAACP, BLM, SURJ, and other anti-racist groups for their own events, meetings, and public forums.

There is more than one way we can encourage inclusion and diversity, and practice empathy as we have seen in this blog post. I implore everyone, including everyone who reads my blog, to take action however you can and…be good to one another.

While I was reading social media posts about what happened in Charlottesville, and the statements from organizations including American Alliance of Museums and American Association of State and Local History on what happened in Charlottesville, I came across resources that will help all educators approach this topic with students. Here are the following resources I read and recommend everyone to read and use:
Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2017/08/13/the-first-thing-teachers-should-do-when-school-starts-is-talk-about-hatred-in-america-heres-help/?utm_term=.6fc22fdfe36f
NPR: http://www.npr.org/2017/08/14/543390148/resources-for-educators-to-use-the-wake-of-charlottesville
Harvard: https://www.gse.harvard.edu/news/uk/17/02/talking-race-controversy-and-trauma
CNN: http://www.cnn.com/2017/08/14/health/talking-to-kids-about-hate/index.html (article referenced in this blog)
Paul Orselli: http://blog.orselli.net/2017/08/what-can-museums-do-to-resist.html?m=1
Museum 2.0: http://museumtwo.blogspot.com/2017/08/guest-posted-by-seema-rao-how-museums-can.html?m=1

 

What are you and your organizations doing in response to the events in Charlottesville? Do you have ideas on what museums should do?

Day at the Museum: Field Trips for Kids and Museum Educators

Added to Medium, July 27, 2017

Before we know it, it will be time for kids to return to school. The highlight of the majority of the students’ school year is the field trip or two. Both kids and museum educators look forward to these field trips for different reasons. Kids enjoy time away from the classroom to play and to, ultimately, learn. Museum educators look forward to interacting with the students to show them ways to bring the material they learn to life, and to assist teachers in teaching the material the students learn in the classroom. To successfully fulfil our institutions’ missions as well as our schools’ expectations, we learn about what the teachers’ standards are for in the classroom they make sure to follow to help their students fulfil the requirements. By seeing how field trips effect kids and museum educators, we can understand how field trips are appealing and continue to be appealing for years to come.

Museum educators go through a number of steps in preparing for students and teachers’ visiting the institutions. Throughout the year, museum educators attend professional development programs when there are opportunities to do so. Museum educators from various institutions gather together to learn about methods that work in educating school groups. Also, museum educators use a number of resources to learn about what teachers need to know about education standards including Common Core Standards.

Teachers plan their school field trips during the summer for their students in the upcoming year. As museum educators, we prepare for school visits by promoting school programs to teachers with flyers so the teachers know what programs are offered. While at the Long Island Museum, for instance, I assisted in keeping a list of teachers in each school district up to date which is continually updated each school year. Then I use the labeling machine to put the address labels on the school program brochures. Once the school program brochures are distributed, teachers interested in booking programs call to schedule field trips for their students to participate in. After the programs are booked, the supplies are prepared to make sure there is enough for each type of program booked.

Once the preparations are made museum educators wait for the school groups to arrive and then guide the groups through the program once they arrive. There are many things for museum educators to consider when gearing their school programs towards the students and chaperones.

Museum educators can learn a lot about what field trips are like from the other side. Tara Young’s Alliance Labs article “Museum Fieldtrips From the Other Side” went into detail about what it is like as a museum professional to be a participant in the field trip experience. She shared takeaways from a field trip to Lexington and Concord she participated in as a chaperone. Young pointed out in her article a number of takeaways from her experience as a chaperone that museum educators should keep in mind when planning school programs including kids need guidance in making connections, the experience is about so much more than the content, a schedule is just a suggestion, and the skill of the interpreter(or interpreters) makes or breaks the whole experience.

As museum educators, we understand that when we teach school programs there has to be at least some flexibility to make sure that students not only have a positive experience but be able to learn as much as we can teach them. Also, when we treat our schedule as a guideline rather than the rule we are able to be prepared for whatever comes including but not limited to when school groups arrive late and have to leave the museum by a certain time, and technical difficulties. The flexible schedule also allows the students to have a special takeaway from the experience rather than focusing on the school program schedule. By attending professional development programs and training sessions, we would be able to be better interpreters to guide students in the interactive programs we teach.

Young also stressed that it is important to address the physiological needs of the students visiting museums such as water breaks when it is hot outside especially when the majority of the visit is outside . Museum educators need to allow time and space for teachers as well as parents to address those needs, which leads to the whole group being better able to focus on the trip’s curricular goals.

These takeaways are important because to understand the lessons our programs teach the kids need to interact with the material in a way that makes them active participants in their education.

Another way to be able to provide a memorable experience for students attending field trips is to think about your own experience attending field trips when you were a student. For instance, I thought about all of the museums and sites I visited as a kid and what I remember the most about each of these experiences is being able to interact with the activities as well as to be educated. As a museum educator today, I remember my inner student and translate that experience into my own teaching methods.

What do you remember about your own field trip experiences? Has it effected the way you educated school groups that visit your museum or institution? Is there an example of a day that showed how much impact your programs had on the students visiting?

To read Tara Young’s original article, click here: http://labs.aam-us.org/blog/museum-fieldtrips-from-the-other-side/

Is Children’s Play Declining? What are Museums Doing to Encourage Playtime

Added on Medium, July 20, 2017

When I was on Twitter this week, I came across a tweet from Sage Museum Ed, the American Alliance of Museums’ Ford W. Bell Fellow for Museums & P-12 Ed. She tweeted an article that came to my attention from Huffington Post called “Children’s Play is Declining, But We Can Help Reclaim It”, written by Huffington Post contributor Merete L. Kropp who is a child development and family specialist. Kropp shared data that showed how play has been decreasing over the years. According to the data she shared, between 1981and 1992 there was a 25 percent decrease in children’s time spent playing even though experts in child development have stressed the importance of playing. Playtime has continually decreased over the past 25 years as the article claimed.

Kropp discussed the number of possibilities that contribute to the decline in play and how to encourage children to dedicate their time to play. A few of the examples she briefly discussed about the contributions to decline in play include overly structured schedules, too many extracurricular activities, decreased recess time in school, and increased time in front of a screen. While children find ways to play, they play in small amounts of time in between activities and waiting for their parents or guardians to spend time with them when the adults are occupied with other tasks such as meal prep time and talking on the phone. Then Kropp shared how children should be encouraged to have their playtime with a couple of points including scheduling unstructured time for children to be bored and entertain themselves, providing simple toys with multiple purposes that give opportunities for creativity and problem solving, and following children’s lead during playtime and allow them to negotiate and communicate on their own terms.

This article made me think about how museums have been providing many options for children to engage and play not only during school programs but also during the summer. Museums, especially in the museums I have worked for, can engage children in providing outlets for them to be creative and the desired time to express their creativity. Also, museums have the ability to provide time children can dedicate to, as Kropp pointed out, “participate in complex scientific discovery as they hypothesize, experiment and make generalizations about the world and how it works”.

Museums I work for currently and those that I have worked for have various activities and programs that allow children to express their curiosity as well as their creativity.

The Maritime Explorium in Port Jefferson, for instance, has various projects and activities that encourage children’s creativity and playtime. Inside the Explorium, there is a bailing boat, or a boat that removes water from the boat, filled with rice where kids can play inside the boat. Kids are encouraged to play with the rice by figuring out how many cups of rice could fill a bucket, how many spoonful of rice can fill a bucket, and which size funnel would the rice come out the fastest. They not only entertain themselves using the rice but they also learn about measuring in the playing process.

Children in the rice boat also have the time to use their imaginations, and create their own play world. With the rice boat, there are toys including sea creatures in addition to white pipes, funnels, buckets, shovels, plastic cups, bowls, and spoons. They use these toys and tools to create endless possibilities for the world and games they create. For instance, one girl pretended she owned her own restaurant and served various dishes using the rice as her creations. Another example of unique possibilities was when a girl today pretended she was able to create a roof using the white pipes.

Also today, a brother and a sister walked in and created two different ways of play. The brother took the pipes and created a maze that would send the rice through on the other end of the pipes. Meanwhile, his sister used the bowels of rice to feed four toy sea turtles and an octopus, and then used two buckets to create their homes (she buried each of the toys in the rice, and pretended to create rooms for these houses). The rice boat is not the only place in the Maritime Explorium where children can have the opportunity to be creative and play.

In addition to working on activities such as puzzles, Legos, drawings, and learning how to turn on a light bulb only using a battery, there is another activity children can create projects however they wanted with limited instructions. Located in the front center of the Maritime Explorium, especially during the summer, there is a project children can work on that changes each week to give them a chance to create something new to take home.

Some of the projects the kids worked on were bug houses, building with paper towel and toilet paper tubes, and seascapes. Bug houses are places where bugs are attracted to and use for shelter outside made out of twigs. Seascapes are dioramas of views of the sea, and were made with either cardboard, Styrofoam cup holders, or paper with the option of adding sand onto their projects; they also have the option of creating their favorite sea creatures to add to their seascapes. Each of these projects had additional tools and materials such as scissors, tape, glue sticks, paper, ribbons, markers, pipe cleaners, and popsicle sticks children can use to make their projects unique and creative.

There are endless possibilities, especially for their building with paper towel and toilet paper tubes projects, for children to make their projects their own unique projects. For instance, one of the girls participating in the building with tubes project, using the tools and materials available, created her own robot.

Since the Maritime Explorium believes in the constructivist theory, museum educators like myself give few instructions on how they are made in order for children to not only do their projects by themselves but they develop their own problem solving skills and express their creative energies. As long as the building is open during public hours, the activities introduced at the Maritime Explorium provide opportunities for children to increase their playtime which coincidently are also encouraged in Kropp’s article.

Another example of a museum that I worked for and that also provide ways for kids to spend time playing is the Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society in Connecticut. Noah Webster House offers a number of summer camp sessions to allow kids to not only learn more about 18th century America but they also have opportunities to express their creativity.

The summer camp at Noah Webster House in partnership with Westmoor Park, called Colonial Kids’ Adventures, I taught before coming to Long Island allowed children to learn, be creative, and play. Kids have time to learn about 18th century life by performing the tasks individuals living in the time period would have completed such as laundry and mixing recipes to be cooked over a hearth, as well as creating crafts related to the time period including corn husk dolls. They also have time during the day to go outside and play with 18th century toys including ball in cup, stilts, and hoops. I also not only supervised play with the toys but also games that the children decided to play.

When the summer camp children visited Westmoor Park, they participated in outdoor activities that not only allowed them to learn but to play as well. Children learn about outdoor chores on the farm by participating in activities that assist in taking care of the animals including cleaning out stalls. Also, they participated in nature walks throughout the park. Then they played games during lunch breaks and after craft activities. Throughout the program, the children work on their skits which allowed them to express their creativity.

The only rules the children had in creating their skits were they had to be set in the colonial period and reflect what they saw and or learned during the camp. Also, the children were divided into groups based on the assigned family names of people who lived during that period. I assisted them by answering questions they have such as what props and costumes they would need to use for their skits. They created their own dialogue in their stories, and one of the stories I remember was a day in the life of a family traveling through town, visiting neighbors, and eating together at the table. At the end of the program, they performed their skits for their friends and families. Summer camps were not the only way children could have playtime at Noah Webster House.

During public hours and programming, there is a space in the museum that allows children to express their imaginations and creativity. In the lean-to of the 18th century house, there is a space that has a small hearth, cookware, toy food, and silverware that allowed children to pretend to cook and role play stories they come up with. Also, in the rooms off of the lean-to, there is a buttery that stores pretend food the children can use for their playtime and there is another room with a Noah Webster farm set they can play with as well as a sandbox with treasures inside to allow children to find them as if they were archeologists. There are also programs that are geared toward young children that allow playtime and creativity.

Bookworm Adventures, for children between three and six years old and the theme for each program changes each time it is held, promote reading as well as playtime. During the Dr. Seuss themed program I taught, the kids not only listened to Dr. Seuss stories read out loud but they also played with toys, drew and colored pictures, and made crafts. I assisted kids make a sweet version of green eggs and ham using green covered chocolates and marshmallows.

Based on my experience in the museum education field and what I have read in Kropp’s article, I noticed that children not only have a number of things to do in the day but they do need to find more time to play. While the museums I worked for provide opportunities to play, sometimes they are restricted to how long the museums are open and when their adults need to go on to the next thing in their schedules whether it is for kids to attend places such as lessons and/or sports or their adults need to run errands. There are other times that the families also planned other activities to spend more time together. We need to learn to make sure that children can have more time on their own to play, imagine, create, and learn so that way they will be able to understand the communities and society around them more. Museums provide these outlets for children, and should be taken advantage of when the opportunities arise.

How do you feel about children’s playtime? Do you feel that playtime has increased or decreased in recent years? What programs do your museums or organizations offer to allow playtime or time to express their creativity?

To read the article I referenced to, click here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/childrens-play-is-declining-but-we-can-help-reclaim_us_5935c726e4b0c670a3ce6778?platform=hootsuite

Book Review: Engaging Young Children in Museums by Sharon E. Shaffer

Originally posted on Medium. November 10, 2016

This week I decided to write a review of a book written to help develop skills in the museum education field. As a museum educator, I believe it is important to read published works about the field to continue to provide new ways of educating school groups and the public. I chose to review Sharon Shaffer’s Engaging Young Children in Museums because not only it reiterates the importance of developing various ways to educate people but the methods shared can be used in any type of museum and audiences of various ages. The following is the review of Shaffer’s book:

Shaffer’s book was laid out in three different sections to introduce the idea of engaging young children in museums. The first section discusses the audience and brings up these questions: who are they? How has the audience changed over the years? The second section then discusses using learning theory and transition the theory into practice. Then the third section revealed future possibilities in museum education especially for young children. Each of the sections have two or three chapters that go into detail about the audience, learning theory and practice, and the future possibilities; the chapters are also divided by providing sections: an introduction, descriptions and arguments, and a conclusion.

In the first section, the three chapters introduce the book as well as discuss understanding young children as an audience. The first chapter introduces the framework for thinking about early learning in museums, and it explores object-based methods that were used effectively in all disciplines as well as in early childhood classrooms. Shaffer also discusses twenty-first century trends and reiterates that it is important to create experiences that are interesting, engaging, inspiring, and provocative.

In the second chapter, she revealed the history of museums in America and the emergence of children’s museums as well as the development of the relationship between children and museums. She also revealed both children’s and traditional museums are partnering with schools in new and different ways to be able to bring content and learning strategies to students and teachers to enrich understanding. In the book, Shaffer brought up these questions that still need attention and time to answer: What role should museums play in education that has traditionally been the responsibility of schools? What strengths do museums offer that are unique to these institutions, yet relevant for children and teachers in more formal settings? In what ways can museums support and contribute to formal early learning? While we cannot immediately answer these questions yet, it is important to figure out the answers by understanding our communities’ needs and our museums’ role in the community.

The third chapter is mainly focused on learning theories and how they can be applied into practice. To have a better understanding of how to educate young children, Shaffer explains how the learning theories can be reviewed and interpreted as educators plan lessons for young children. I appreciate that this chapter give a description of the learning theory and a layout of the theory to visually explain how it can help educate our audiences. For instance, Shaffer describes George Hein’s model in the book Learning in the Museum (1998) which revealed the complexity of learning; the model is divided into four domains that represent different categories of educational theories where the values and beliefs are defined about knowledge ascribed to each domain, and ideally within the theory support each other. Also, other theory models include Early Learning Model (made of key elements essential to construction of knowledge: explore, experience, conceptualize, imagine, create, and knowledge constructed through the process), and thematic approaches to learning (nature of experience, learning through play, ways of knowing, and motivation and learning). Each of these theories were described in detail to purposely aid educators in the classroom and museum setting.

The second section went into detail about early childhood classrooms and museum learning, the key concepts of best practices and best practices for a foundation for early childhood programming in museums. In the fourth chapter, Shaffer discussed various early childhood models and programs, and especially went into further discussion on models including the Montessori Method, the Reggio Emilia model, and the High Scope approach. The Montessori Method focuses on using the child’s surroundings especially nature as inspiration for learning. The Reggio Emilia model encourages collaboration between the child and the teacher to maintain the child-focus in the lesson and embraces self-expression as well as creativity. Meanwhile the High Scope approach focuses on the concept of active participatory learning, or a process designed to make the child a co-creator in his or her learning experience through observation.

Then the fifth chapter discusses key concepts of best practice by explaining the transition to including young children as museums audiences, and how educating young children in museum spaces has grown in the museum community. The chapter also gives the reader an example of a program developed by the Denver Art Museum that uses games and art making activities to allow children to explore their American Indian galleries. It is important that the book included real scenario examples because it gives museum educators detailed ideas to help our organizations get inspired to create similar programs for our young audiences. The fifth and sixth chapters also stress the importance of creating a welcoming environment for museum goers of all ages, and how educators and interpreters can utilize professional development to learn to adapt their lessons that appeal to young children. The last section focuses on making a difference and future promises in the field.

Shaffer describes future trends that will affect the way museums use early learning in their programs. The trends include continuing to see value in creating early learning programs, collaborations and partnerships, and use of technology. To continue to run our museums, we need to make sure we adapt with the changing society and understand its role in the community. Our museums would always have the past as our museums contemplate current practices and the future of the museum field to influence our thinking as well as rekindle our outlook reflecting today’s perspective. I agree with this statement because our institutions are founded in our past and we create innovative programs based on our museums’ missions.

In my experience, educating young children is an essential part of our society and the museums, especially the ones I have worked for and currently work at, can aid their educational experiences. At the Long Island Museum, for instance, I taught young children in kindergarten about primary colors using the museum’s art gallery to help them recognize the colors in paintings and later I gave children color wheels to color in the colors using watercolor pencils; they also listened to a story about the use of colors. I also participated in Family Fun Day at the Long Island Museum by creating crafting activities for families with young children to participate in. By using interactive activities for the children, they can understand the world around them and create a foundation for their continued education as they grow up. As I continue my career in museum education, I hope to continue to learn innovations in engaging with young children in the museum.

What are some examples your institutions are using to educate young children? Are there programs that you collaborate with other institutions or families?