The Association of Midwest Museums conference in Cincinnati has left me wondering, how does a military history museum position itself within the community’s educational arena, particularly when its educational focus is centered on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education?
The answer that keeps coming back to me is, we are in a unique position to export the historical significance of the United States Navy, and demonstrate how STEM concepts play a key role in the that history (indeed, all histories). Clearly Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math factor greatly into the history of the Navy. And, by providing fun and engaging ways of bringing this to the public, we insert ourselves into the local educational arena by reinforcing what is already being offered in the public schools.
We must be creative, original, and fun. How else do you attract students to science classes on a Saturday? But we aren’t an alternative to the public education system. Rather, we try to work in coordination with them and, in doing so, underscore the importance of both types of programming.
While at the conference, I had the opportunity to speak with many museum professionals who had already asked this question to themselves. The feedback was enlightening and encouraging. The most popular response was to coordinate the museum’s efforts with those of a school within the community. The first step is finding a science or math teacher who is willing to incorporate supplemental programming into their curriculum. At first, this will be on a small scale, perhaps only working with a single class. But as the relationships grow, so might the partnership.
To this end, the museum’s educational department will be reaching out to science teachers in the community in an effort to engage a willing collaborator. Once found, we will be working with that educator and his/her school to determine how to best serve the students while maintaining the integrity of the participating school’s curriculum. Since we are a more flexible entity, it’s important to for us to support the existing programming rather than try to reinvent the wheel, so to speak.
So, check back with us over the next few weeks to see who we are partnering with, in what direction this partnership is headed, and how we are going to execute our plans. We look forward to sharing the results with you and, of course, if you have any suggestions for us, please leave them in the comments section below.