In a series of posts over the past year on next steps for museum educators, I've expressed disappointment at the over-identification of museum learning resources and experiences with the methods of formal education - too many lesson plans, tests and reading assignments--all of which are fine in themselves but not our forte. One promising trend in the opposite direction is the use by some museums of their growing digital expertise and capability to share informal education approaches and resources with their school audiences. Following is a guest post by the Smithsonian's Reema Ghazi describing a program that does just that.
Museum-School-Community Partnerships: Bringing Informal Education to the Classroom
Over the past few months, we’ve worked with a number of teachers on missions and taken field trips to various Smithsonian museums.
Watkins Elementary fifth graders have a mission to investigate the intersection of food & cultural diversity in the Capitol Hill neighborhood where their school is located. Students visited the National Museum of the American Indian. In the Mitsitam Café, which serves food from a variety of Indian traditions, they recorded video interviews with visitors speaking about their own food culture and traditions. The students will be conducting interviews with local restaurants in the Capitol Hill neighborhood, talking to business owners about food culture and traditions. Ultimately they will create digital posters that share information about the culture of a given restaurant, population and immigration statistics, and more, to serve a number of math & social studies goals for the year.
What kinds of partnerships do you have with your school communities? Have you attempted to share more open-ended and experiential approaches to learning with educators in the formal system? What challenges have you encountered in the process?
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