Kudos Affiliates! July-August 2012

As summer heats up, so too do Affiliate accomplishments!

The Michigan State University Museum (East Lansing, Michigan) received a new grant from the Asian Cultural Council, New York City, to establish a partnership between the Michigan State University Museum and Yunnan Nationalities Museum, in Kunming, China. The $12,000 grant is aimed at creating new resources online that can be used to access Chinese folklife and ethnographic collections by scholars, museums and the public.

The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center (Cincinnati, Ohio) will receive a $1.8 million grant over three years as part of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s America Healing program. The three-year grant will be used for programs to increase student and public awareness and understanding about the history of racial oppression in this country.

The Long Island Museum (Stony Brook, New York) has received a grant of $286,000 from the National Endowment for the Humanities.  The highly competitive grant, awarded to only a few museums nationwide, will complete the revitalization of the Carriage Museum with two new exhibition galleries.

The GAR Foundation has awarded a $30,000 grant to the Western Reserve Historical Society (Cleveland, Ohio), for educational programming at Hale Farm & Village.

Three Affiliates received Smithsonian Community Grants program sponsored by MetLife Foundation as part of the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibitions Services (SITES):

  • Institute of Texan Cultures (San Antonio, Texas) received $5,000 to fund programming that fosters self-identification and pride for dual heritage African-Native Texans. The grant will support honoraria for several scholars, craft and educational materials, and the marketing and advertising of events related to the themes of IndiVisible: African-Native American Lives in the Americas.
  • San Diego Museum of Man (San Diego, California) was awarded $3,750 to fund the honoraria of Native American skate industry professionals who will participate in a panel discussion. The grant will also support the marketing of programming related to the themes of Ramp it Up: Skateboard Culture in Native America.
  • Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum (McMinnville, Oregon) will receive $2,160 to fund the busing of economically disadvantaged and minority youth in the regional Portland area to view Black Wings: An American Dream of Flight.

A technology upgrade for Ellen Noel Art Museum (Odessa, Texas) is the result of a Permian Basin Area Foundation $5,000 grant. This technology upgrade will help support the museum’s existing website and social media sites.

American Association for State and Local History (AASLH) announced the winners of their 2012 Leadership in History Awards Winners including the following Affiliates:

  • Arizona State Museum (Tucson, Arizona) for the exhibit Many Mexicos: Vistas de la Frontera
  • Conner Prairie Interactive History Park (Fishers, Indiana) for the exhibit 1863 Civil War Journey: Raid on Indiana.
  • Montana Historical Society (Bozeman, Montana) and Montana Office of Public Instruction Indian Education for All Divisions for Best Practices in Museum Education: Museums and Schools as Co-Educators.
  • North Carolina Museum of History (Raleigh, North Carolina) for the exhibit The Story of North Carolina.
  • Ohio Historical Society (Columbus, Ohio) for the exhibit Controversy: Pieces You Don’t Normally See; for the Ohio as America Online 4th Grade Textbook; and for the Ohio History Service Corps-AmeriCorps Program.

Mission Possible: Bridging the Gap

Special thanks to our Smithsonian Affiliations summer intern Lisa Hung (University of California, Irvine) for participating in the Smithsonian’s EdLab Teacher workshops in order to share her experience with us. Here, Lisa reflects on what participating in these workshops meant to her. 

Writing 6 word stories that interpret what we see in this piece to spark our creativity, an example of the lively classroom environment EdLab promotes.

She looks up and directs her attention to the front of the room, cringing as she hears the sound of cars zoom across the board with each title. With each chunk of text, she winces at the click of the typewriter flying in from the left of the screen letter by excruciating letter. We’ve all been there; the mess of slides horribly incorporating sounds and effects on a PowerPoint presentation in attempts to bridge the technological gap between students and teachers. Kim Skerritt and Jeff Meade mentioned during the last EdLab workshop, if you don’t feel that the technological aspect of the project will add to the assignment then leave it out.

I was once that girl prefacing each blog I had written for this series, distracted and driven by routine. I’ve been in classrooms where the homework and projects were pulled directly out of the books and listened to lectures in which the material reiterates the textbook verbatim. At the end of the EdLab workshops, we all sought to create our own mission based projects and asked ourselves, as teachers; would we find joy in grading these assignments?Ultimately, what I love about the EdLab workshops is that it does an amazing job integrating our community, interests, and learning while remaining modern. EdLab conducts the workshop in a way that allows for a safe space for the educators to explore and experiment – but it doesn’t end at that, these workshops take the product of our missions and shares them with the public.

At the Smithsonian American Art Museum debriefing after a mission.

21st century technology can be attributed to the idea of mission-based learning in order to create a lively and interactive environment in the classroom. The various Smithsonian museums proved to be wonderful resources that can be utilized in our educational development. As someone who is a visual learner, being up close and personal with the paintings allowed me to better absorb information and apply it to my school and community. I have been able to liberate myself from the stereotypes many people have of Generation Y – and instead, allowed myself to embrace the blessings of this generation and use it to my advantage to create a classroom that aspires towards activism.

Looking for more information about the Smithsonian EdLab program? Click here.

Smithsonian Folklife Festival 2012: Dinosaur Dig

Special thanks to Smithsonian Affiliations intern, Neema Amadala (University of Calgary, Alberta, Canada), for this guest post.

In contrast to the University of Illinois’ cool, canopied hard-court, Lisa and I stumbled back in time to a dinosaur dig. It was a 100 degree day (or 38°C for those of us metrically inclined) and perhaps an inopportune time to be outside digging for dinosaurs. In my opinion, the best part of being a Smithsonian Affiliations intern is meeting the Affiliates: seeing the dedication they have to their projects is wonderful. For this reason, I hoped to meet a celebrity of sorts, Dr. Alan Grant of Jurassic Park fame. Not the fictional character but Dr. Jack Horner on whom Sam Neill’s character in the trilogy was the partial inspiration for and paleontological advisor to. To my chagrin, Dr. Horner had left the 2012 Smithsonian Folklife Festival but there were still dinosaurs to discover.

Visitors watching intently at the preparation of a specimen. Photo courtesy Smithsonian Affiliations.

On this particular dig, we were under the cover of the Museum of the Rockies (MOR), a Smithsonian Affiliate in Bozeman, Montana. I watched as children and adults wandered in, fascinated as always, by these prehistoric creatures who we discover anew every day. Festival goers could choose to conduct their own dinosaur dig, learn how casting a fossil works, watch a member of the Field Crew prepare a specimen for the lab or just learn more about Montana’s prehistoric past. Everyone on the dig was engaged and the wealth of experience and excitement MOR brought to the Folklife Festival was visible on the faces of all who passed through on the dig.

Lisa Lundgren, with MOR’s educational team, helped visitors learn about the history not just beneath the soil of Montana’s badlands but visible in its multicolored sedimentary strands. Explaining MOR’s own connection and contribution to fossil history Lisa and I were introduced to Maiasaura or ‘good mother lizard’: a giant dinosaur that unlike its contemporaries raised and fed their hatchlings. There were plenty of tactile and visual aids to keep us engaged and connected to the subject matter and like the children around me, I relished my time with the dinos.

Smithsonian Affiliations intern Lisa Hung with Lisa Lundgren from Affiliate, Museum of the Rockies. Photo courtesy Smithsonian Affiliations.

This time travelling experience showcased the expertise and knowledge that Affiliates can bring to the Smithsonian. Being an Affiliate can be about more than the loaning of artifacts, there can be an exchange of programs and expertise along with interaction with the community at large. Not only did the Festival provide exposure to visitors about Montana’s primordial past, perhaps embedding MOR as a potential stop on a future trip, but also enriched the learning experience that the Smithsonian seeks to provide to all.

Mission Possible: Creative Control

Special thanks to our Smithsonian Affiliations summer intern Neema Amadala (University of Calgary) for participating in the Smithsonian’s EdLab Teacher workshops in order to share her experience with us. Here, Neema Amadala reflects on what participating in these workshops meant to her. 

Imagine being able to interact with a painting and the museum in a completely different manner than usual. Instead of simply standing and admiring the painting, we studied and questioned its possible meaning, we created our own narrative about the painting, we didn’t let someone else interpret it for us. This type of experience can be adapted to any museum or any classroom; this approach makes field trips part of the learning experience not just an afterthought. Students unleash their creativity instead of viewing the museum as yet another excuse to leave the classroom: museums open the doors to learning and adventure.

Each EdLab workshop has a theme for the week and a mission for the day but gives creative control to each individual group allowing you to choose what topics interest you and what you would like to explore further. This format can be used in any setting and made me realize how much flexibility educators have with technology. My favorite creation of the week was the comic book our group created based on a Thomas Hart Benton painting in Smithsonian’s Museum of American Art.

“Achelous and Hercules,” 1947, Thomas Hart Benton (1889-1975), tempera and oil on canvas mounted on plywood, 62 7/8 x 264 1/8 in. (159.6 x 671.0 cm.), Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Allied Stores Corporation, and museum purchase through the Smithsonian Institution Collections Acquisition Program, 1985.2.

As a child, I often heard about putting myself in other people’s shoes. For a child this is a difficult thing to imagine: how do I wear the shoes of someone else? The older you get, the better you understand the meaning behind the phrase. It’s still hard to imagine until you talk to the individual, hear their struggles and the challenges they face. This workshop enabled me to understand the difficulties educators face when trying to implement new technologies in their classroom but their presence in the workshop shows their determination to find ways to continue innovating. Innovate on educators, innovate on!

For more information about the Smithsonian EdLab program, click here.

Comic the EdLab workshop participants created

EdLab: Mission Possible

Special thanks to our Smithsonian Affiliations summer interns Lisa Hung (University of California, Irvine) and Neema Amadala (University of Calgary) for participating in the Smithsonian’s EdLab Teacher workshops in order to share their experiences with us. This is the final guest post in their “Teaching in a 21st Century Classroom” series.   

EdLab: Mission Possible
By Neema Amadala

We finished our workshop week surrounded by fellow teachers absorbing technology and harnessing creativity. Like in the classroom, it’s important to leave time for reflection after a project to debrief and process the information gained.  

Day Four was all about giving the teachers a chance for this reflection. A chance to put into practice the skills and tools we explored over the week through the creation of our own mission-based learning plan. The mission-based learning plan brings together real objects with technology; it takes the classroom beyond its four walls into the community, not chaining students’ creativity to their desks but giving them the freedom to explore their own neighborhoods and spark change driven by their own passion.  

The technology that was used all week was returned and the time came for the teachers to leave behind the EdLab. The mission isn’t over for these teachers though; these missions are an ongoing process with an EdLab alumni community for teachers to continue sharing their triumphs and tribulations. Maybe the tools and technologies are not as readily available to you, but teaching in a 21st-century classroom isn’t impossible, EdLab inspires you to teach differently, to experience a different way of learning, to just explore because the mission is possible.

In July we will welcome Susan Zwerling from the International Museum of Art and Science, a Smithsonian Affiliate in McAllen, Texas, as she begins her EdLab journey. We plan on following her progress during her two-week stay so stay tuned for more EdLab blogs! For more information, contact the EdLab team at npm.mobilelearning@si.edu .

Mixing work and play at mission possible! Photo courtesy Smithsonian EdLab.



Beyond the Walls of the Classroom: Mission Accomplished

Special thanks to our Smithsonian Affiliations summer interns Lisa Hung (University of California, Irvine) and Neema Amadala (University of Calgary) for participating in the Smithsonian’s EdLab Teacher workshops in order to share their experiences with us. This is the third of four guest posts in their “Teaching in a 21st Century Classroom” series.   

Beyond the Walls of the Classroom: Mission Accomplished
By Lisa Hung

Eyes glued to the ground, trying to make her way to the metro without stopping, and occasionally glancing up to verify her surroundings she barely catches glimpses and snapshots of her fast-paced life. At what point do we slow down? It seems that this walk to the metro and the texting in class has become a microcosm for the way many people depict our society to be – distracted, single track minded, and driven by our technology and need to get from point A to B. We end up focusing more on our destination as opposed to our journey, what do we miss when we overlook our surroundings, or more importantly, our community?

The brochure from one of the groups’ presentation.

Day three of EdLab’s workshop required the attendees to step outside of their comfort zones and in 100 degree heat – and we did just that. Art can be a participant in and even a catalyst for conversations about conflicts. Our mission was to design a catalyst that illuminated a local conflict by going into the streets of DC, identifying a need or a problem in the community and developing a plan for how we will get people to care about and work to solve these problems. Being a native of California, I was unsure of the local issues in DC, but being on the streets and truly taking a deep look at everything made me realize that I didn’t need to look far to identify a need or a conflict. If everyone could go around for just one day to identify a simple need and act on it, even if it is for a single individual, we could be stepping into a world filled with moral courage. For example, we had one group focus on raising awareness for the needs of bike racks in a city filled with commuters. Using multi-media tools, they created a brochure, tweeted and called several communities of cyclists, and gathered comment cards to take action and work to solve the issue. Interestingly, some organizations responded to a few tweets and phone calls were returned. This shows how far simply acknowledging and voicing a concern can take you.

This mission was such a wonderful way to have your kids do more than community service. Instead you have them acknowledge an issue, research it, and allow them to find the passion in it themselves. Besides, what’s the point of learning without application and what’s the point in developing critical thinkers without providing a safe space to think? By applying service learning, we can build a bridge between the students and their communities, and what better way to learn something than to tackle an issue in your very own backyard? This mission is not just a task for our educators and students to learn great lessons, but it is something we can use to put a face and a name to the issues we are confronted with.

Stay tuned forthe final blog in our EdLab series! And for more information, contact the EdLab team at npm.mobilelearning@si.edu .