What’s taught in the classroom from textbooks is important, but students often achieve an even-better understanding of history or other subjects through firsthand exposure provided through field trips to off-campus facilities.
That is the idea behind a new initiative by Mount Airy Museum of Regional History aimed at enhancing its use as a learning tool by local schools.
Teachers already are taking advantage of the downtown museum’s ability to provide “hands-on” experiences that supplement classroom instruction, according to Sonya Laney, its director of education and programs.
“In December, we had a week when we had seven or eight school groups coming in,” she said of tours by students and teachers.
This reflects how museum exhibits are relied on to make subjects come alive, which might include studies of Native Americans and Moravian Christmas traditions that were recent focuses, or other tour themes.
Laney said the museum component is aligned with curriculum requirements of schools.
Since the important job of educating young people is involved, the museum is trying to maximize the facility’s effectiveness as an outreach destination for school group visits.
“So we can make field trips more useful for students,” Laney explained.
As part of this process, a focus group meeting is scheduled this coming Tuesday at 6 p.m. at the museum to which all local K-12 educators are invited. It is open to teachers and administrators, with food and beverages to be provided.
“We’ve been trying to get a teachers’ advisory group going this year,” Laney said of a first-ever initiative for Mount Airy Museum of Regional History. “I’ve talked to teachers in the schools, and I’ve talked to the principals and everything and we’re ready to get it rolling.”
One of the main objectives of Tuesday night’s inaugural advisory committee meeting will be to gather feedback from teachers and others about ways in which student field trips might be improved. This will help the museum fine-tune programs and tour offerings and develop new classroom resources to better serve teachers and students.
“The event on Tuesday is to get teachers in step with what we’re doing,” Laney said. This might include something as simple as their suggestions on logistical issues the museum should address to streamline tours.
From museum officials’ vantage point, “field trips go really well,” Laney said. “But we only see the kids for two hours.”
Various options are available for student field trips to the museum, including self-guided tours of relevant exhibits by a class, ones led by museum docents, or guides, or field trip programs that are more comprehensive.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.