Gearing Up for New Audiences: Preparing Your Site, Staff, and Volunteers for K-2 Field Trips
Clayton Drescher, Education Manager, Petersen Automotive Museum
Jennifer Simpson, School & Tour Services Coordinator, Petersen Automotive Museum Lorianne Salazar, Children & Family Programs Coordinator, Petersen Automotive Museum
Grace Tran, Kindergarten/First Grade Teacher, Aspire Titan Academy Anneli Aurelio, Museum Teacher, The Autry National Center
Engaging young students, kindergarten through early elementary, in a history museum environment can be challenging and some museums choose to focus their field trip programs on older students. However, there is a demand for off-campus cultural enrichment from K-2 teachers and the use of interactive, hands-on, and standards-based programs have been proven effective in providing rewarding museum experiences for young learners. Panelists from the Petersen Automotive Museum, the Autry National Center, and teachers in the Los Angeles Unified School District will present the case for K-2 standards-based, interpretive field trips and dialogue with the audience about the challenges and benefits of these programs.
Summary from Session Moderator
As attendees entered the session room, they were invited to write down their earliest museum field trip memory. Ages and experiences varied, but the take-home point was that many of us remember our first museum experiences. Early museum experiences influence later museum visiting habits, so, as educators, we want to ensure our youngest visitors have a positive, enriching experience.
Jennifer Simpson and Lorianne Salazar from the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles, California spoke about the development process of their new K-2 tour and activity program. Inspired by a need expressed from their audience of teachers and young learners, staff designed and tested a new condensed, age-appropriate tour on how the widespread adoption of the automobile changed how people lived, worked, and played in Los Angeles. Staff also added a creative art activity which reinforced the ideas and concepts learned on the tour. Volunteer docent buy-in has been a challenge though the response from teachers and students has been very positive and slight updates are continuously made based on practical considerations and audience feedback.
Anneli Aurelio from the Autry National Center in Los Angeles, California presented the perspective of a museum with a long-running program for young learners. The earliest Autry programs focused on K-2 learners were actually begun by a volunteer docent at the Autry in the late 80s after she saw current programming not sufficiently meeting the needs of this audience. Today, young learner programs are developed and taught by a mix of volunteers and staff, depending on the type of program. These programs focus on interacting with real objects relevant to the stories of the American West, using physical movement, and connecting history and culture with students’ everyday lives.
Common challenges between both institutions include determining an appropriate length for each program, keeping sufficient staff and volunteers trained, and maneuvering groups in the galleries during public hours.
Museums should not create programs in a bubble and teacher input is integral to ensuring the final form of a school tour program is beneficial to our target audience—the students. Grace Tran of Aspire Public Schools in Huntington Park, California shared the perspective of a K-2 teacher preparing their administrators, parents, and students for a field trip. Key points include clearly identifying which curriculum standards your museum program meets and communicating well with teachers both during the tour planning process and even at educator-focused museum events (teacher previews, open houses, etc). Different teachers use different kinds of resources from a museum, but having a variety of lesson plans, text, images, and activities to choose from can only help.
After the panelists presented their information, they asked a series of questions of the audience to determine how many museums represented offered specifically targeted K-2 programs and whether they were staff- or volunteer-led. Participants then asked questions of the panel and each other about facilitating volunteer buy-in, developing communication strategies with teachers, and program evaluation methods.