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Museums: Dynamic Learning Centers

Historic house museums are dynamic learning centers for students. They provide an evocative setting that stimulates imaginations, actively engages students in learning, and inspires further investigation. Whether a local historic site or a national historic landmark, these museums have unique programming and resources that greatly enhance the student learning experience.

A planned visit to an historic house museum places the student in a rich contextual environment that encourages sensory investigation and promotes experiential learning. At its very simplest, the museum provides opportunities for learning and/or reinforcement of ideas, facts and concepts that are part of the students' curriculum. The historic house environment of the museum fosters an aesthetic understanding as students investigate their surroundings by looking, listening, smelling and touching. Students interact with buildings, objects, people, landscapes and documents. As students explore familiar settings, the homes of "people of the past," they make social and cultural discoveries about themselves and others. Through exhibitions and interpretation, the museum presents shifts in attitudes, values and beliefs. Programs emphasize imaginative and creative thought and action. These diverse learning experiences encourage and refine students' critical thinking skills.

A valuable learning experience is one that establishes connections with students' lives. These links make the abstract personal, bringing it into focus as tangible concepts that stimulate further investigation. A historic house museum creates connections with the people, places, objects, buildings and facts that are America's richly diverse cultural heritage. At Roseland Cottage, Historic New England's 1846 Gothic Revival summer estate located in Woodstock, Conn., students walk along the same parterre garden paths that Henry Chandler Bowen walked in 1880. They smell the same scent of boxwood warming in the sun that his guests did when they visited. Entering the garden, students catch their clothing on thorns from the same rose bush that snagged the clothing of the Bowen children as they played. From time to time at Roseland Cottage, the sounds of the modern world recede and, just for a few moments, it could be 1880.

Personal, sensory learning experiences help students draw meaning from activities and stimulate further interest. They generate a sense of curiosity, inviting comparisons and questions. Students are actively engaged in learning and their imaginations are excited at an historic house museum

Museums: Dynamic Learning Centers