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Reaching Out

Museums are working to create innovative ways to reach their diverse audiences. Recognizing the increasingly difficult task that educators face to "find the time," museum staff are developing programming that goes right into the classroom. Discovery kits, activity packets, museum educator led programs, and video displays are just some of the options available to today's educator.

Discovery kits are an excellent tool for putting tangible objects directly into the hands of the students. Theme based, they add depth to the curriculum. The kits are student directed exploration units, that contain step-by-step instructions, activities, primary source materials, objects, and equipment. They offer inter-disciplinary explorations of a topic through crafts, art projects, games, language arts projects, or experiments. Many educators dedicate one instructional period to an explanation of the kit and, subsequently, students work out a schedule for individual or small group use. Kits may also provide materials for one or more full class activities; or simply provide supplemental material for the educator. All materials are carefully prepared for appropriate curriculum and grade level requirements. Many museums provide kits that contain pre_ or post_visit materials for the class that has scheduled a site visit.

Historic New England's Programs to Go! is one example of the mobile field trip. This type of programming brings the museum experience to the school. Programs developed to travel are taught by museum educators, who bring materials directly into each classroom. Like their counterpart programs at the site, they strive to create a learning experience for the student that promotes meaningful interactions with objects, buildings, people, visuals, and other sources of data, and assist the student in drawing meaning from these experiences. Traveling programs can also serve as introductory sessions, prior to the class trip to the site.

Recognizing that, while an on-site visit is the ideal, schools are often limited by time and resources, today's historic house museums offer an array of options for the educator and the student to participate in the museum experience. Their goal is to create a sense of curiosity and stimulate comparisons, questions and further interest.

Reaching Out