“Museum programs” include just about anything you can think of that can happen in a museum that’s mediated by museum staff and that relates to the museum’s collections, exhibits, or mission—everything from guided tours to craft demonstrations, and from theatre performances to games.
Beloit’s museum education practicum class has spent the fall semester exploring the range of programming possibilities in museums of all types. Students have played 1850s-era vintage base ball (yes, that’s correct—it was two words back then), helped out with Rockford’s Discovery Center Museum’s “Spooky Science” Halloween event, hugged trees at the Welty Environmental Center, led programs with fifth-graders at the Logan Museum, and took extended looks and had in-depth discussions about paintings in the Wright Museum of Art.
The course gives students an opportunity to experience and practice the range of techniques available to educators and others working in informal learning environments like museums. Students explore informal learning from the audience perspective through readings and by participating in programs both on and off campus. They also explore informal learning from the educator’s perspective by crafting programs for specific audiences and by leading groups through the programs they have created. Under the College’s new curriculum, the course is designated as a LAP-1 course, which means there is a significant amount of application of course material both on campus and in the community.
Logan Museum of Anthropology Curator of Exhibits and Education Dan Bartlett says that while the course is cross-listed under museum studies and education and youth studies, the course content and experiences are applicable to any student who might ever have to give a formal or informal presentation, from presenting at a professional conference to selling door-to-door.
“Appreciating an audience’s characteristics and using those characteristics in finding ways to make an unfamiliar subject relevant and interesting is a fundamental communication skill," he says. (Bartlett is pictured below, in costume) "The course really stresses focusing a message and developing engaging ways to get that message across.”
On Monday, Dec. 10, members of the class will present “Science From Beyond the Grave,” a drop-in program for kids ages 6-12 at the Beloit Public Library. These short, interactive presentations highlight the life and work of some famous (and not-so-famous) dead scientists. These programs were originally prepared for the Discovery Center in Rockford. Three days of final project presentations for the class are scheduled from 2:00-3:50 p.m. on Dec. 4, Dec. 6, and Dec. 11, and are open to the campus community.
Details on these presentations will be announced after the Thanksgiving holiday break.