A couple of weeks ago a group of staff, known as the Interpretive Planning Committee took a fieldtrip to visit one of the two Seminole Tribe of Florida’s reservation primary schools. The irony of a museum taking a fieldtrip to school was not lost on me, but this trip is part of a larger conversation to actively involve teachers at the Museum. We started with the Tribe’s newest school, Pemayetv Emahakv Charter School giving them a presentation about the Museum services offered to the Seminole communities. All Seminole schools pre-K and primary offer culture classes, so the Museum acts as one more resource for Seminole students to study their history.
The best resources the Museum has to offer are thousands of primary documents and three-dimensional artifacts. Much of the follow up conservation focused-on how to get students interested enough to ask questions and explore further beyond the text. They agreed that any resource should be online and easily accessible; the first steps towards learning more will most likely take place on an IPod or Smartphone. Additional suggestions encouraged the use of online resources for the classroom: live webinars, where students could chat with staff; downloadable or online lessons; and podcasts. We currently offered an online catalog of much of our collection which grows as the collection staff digitizes our collection, in addition to Podcasts and virtual tours.
One of the services mentioned, is an event upcoming for spring 2011 aimed at teaching about the STOF’s Tribal Historic Preservation Office and how they use the skills of math and science to study the past. This peaked several teachers interest in ways they can use Museum resources and programs to inspire students to study the fields of math and science. As a cultural and historical Museum, we compete with the FCAT, Florida’s Standardized Test, which focuses on the subjects of math, science, reading and writing; to be an applicable Museum experience for field trips or classroom time these subjects are a must have to even be considered by most schools.
Continuing the conservation means the Museum go beyond providing services to just the Tribal Schools; we also have a responsibility to students and teachers across the state of Florida. Over the next six months, Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum is also providing workshops to several Florida public school teachers partnering with the Florida Humanities Council, the Broward County School District, and the Collier County School District. Each workshop plans to bring more teachers to the Museum and more Seminole culture and history information into the classroom.