My First Time on the Boardwalk

I remember the first time I walked the boardwalk at the Museum. It was at my interview for the Education Coordinator position. The warmth of sun filtering through the trees, the feel of the cool wood planks beneath my feet (I had worn heels to my interview and my feet were sore). The needles from the bald cypress trees had begun to fall onto the boardwalk and were getting stuck to my trouser socks. I remember breathing in the clean Big Cypress air feeling the difference in the air quality compared to that of Detroit where I had grown up. Looking at the placards I appreciated the life giving nature of the plants around me. I wondered how many of these plants are weaved into the Seminoles’ culture.

I didn’t make it very far that day without proper footwear, but the memory has lasted and driven the way I work with the Tour Guides to give visitors a memorable experience. I have had many walks on the boardwalk since that time; each experience has given me a deeper appreciation for where I work. However, boardwalk itself isn’t how my understanding and appreciation for Seminole culture has grown; being a part of programming that takes place on it, the exchange thoughts and ideas about life and the world around us. Some days I go out talking with Tribal members, colleagues, and visitors, which left me with a feeling that we had just solved the world’s problems. Other days I walk out there to clear my head or to get in some exercise. Much of the time I’m out there, I’m working to keep the plant information fresh in my mind or am brainstorming ideas for a new program.

My advice for a person planning a trip to our Museum is to make sure you have enough time to walk the boardwalk. It’s just over a mile long so bring some water and good walking shoes. Bug spray is a must especially during the summer time. It’s hot and muggy this time of year with rain. Dry season is nice time to walk the boardwalk the humidity drops and the temperature in mild and cooler (75 to 80 degrees on average). In the wet season, with almost daily afternoon down pores, the rain gives life to the cypress dome plants that are dormant in the dry season come back to life in the wet season.

Need to take a break, about half way through the walk is our village and ceremonial grounds. It is a great place to cool off under a chickee, get a drink of water, and visit with Seminole crafters.

It’s more than just plants that come to life in the summer animals are more active, too. All staff seems to be aware that more animals are around and to keep a distance between us and them. The animals we see on a daily basis are wild and roam freely through our grounds. We see raccoons and turtles, alligators and otters, and on rare occasions a black bear will wander through. At this point many of you are thinking, “Isn’t it scary working in place with so much wild life?” Not at all. I feel safe out here knowing all the staff is trained in first aid and we have numbers on our boardwalk along with call boxes to send help quickly if something were to happen. The best part of all is we’re across the street from the police, fire, and EMT building; average response time in my experience about 5 minutes.

Maybe it’s the heat or any of the other unique experiences I just described, but we don’t get much visitor traffic during the summer time. I say, “Come prepared and you’ll have a great adventure.”

-Diana Stone, Education Coordinator

Archaeology Day

What skills does it take to work for the Tribal Historic Preservation Office? The Tribal Historic Preservation Office (THPO) is a group of people (including archaeologists) that are passionate about the preservation of the Tribes rich cultural history.  Well, this we asked just that to 326 students, both Seminole and Non-Seminole. Students were asked to use skills from Science and Math to interpret Seminole culture and history.

Archaeology Day was the first of its kind program developed with activities by the professionals from THPO. Six stations with some additional substations broke down some of the major tasks THPO uses as a part of their everyday jobs. Some of the areas were:

  • Geographic Information Science (GIS) or Creating Maps
  • Architecture of Seminole Chickees
  • Compass and Orienteering
  • Surveying Site (the dig)
  • Analysis Artifacts
  • Artifact Reconstruction
  • Tribal Cultural Properties (protecting sites of cultural importance)

    Archaeology Day!

 

The last stop students were asked to reflect on what they learn. Students completed a workbook at each station and received a packet of supplies to do the activities. Students commented their new understanding of the science behind archaeology. We plan to do program again next year with some changes, based on the response from this year. Look for it in March 2012.

 

-Diana Stone

Greetings from Las Vegas!

Greg Palumbo and Diana Stone

Greetings from Las Vegas! Last week, Greg Palumbo, Exhibits Manager and I, Diana Stone, Education Coordinator went to Las Vegas Nevada, NV for the National Association for Interpretation’s National Conference. We met up with educators (interpreters) and exhibitors from across North America and the world. It was an interesting conference many people might realize that Vegas is more than lights and casinos, it is surrounded by national parks and historic sites. For an education junky like myself this conference is heaven from Geocaching historic sites around the city to interpreting Native American history through song. My goal is to bring new ideas and inspirations for developing new educational programs at the Museum.

Tuesday, I went a pre-workshop with Jack Gladstone, a poet, interpreter, and musician, which focused on 20th Century Native American history. He used music to teach us about events of the past one hundred years. I found that the message of using empathy and common human experiences to connect a diverse audience with another culture to be an essential component to any cultural program. It is important that visitors not just learn the facts about Seminole culture and history, that they also make an emotion connection with their experience.

One point of inspiration was a side trip I took to the MGM’s CSI: The Experience where you become a crime scene investigator. It takes you through the basic steps of solving a crime that is similar to the ways in which an archaeologist researches a cultural site. I hope to include those learning strategies into Seminole Archaeology Day this spring with the THPO (Tribal Historic Preservation Office). If your interested in learning more about this event we will have some more information posted on our website in a couple of months.

Friday, we took a fieldtrip to the Valley of Fire and Lost City Museum. Simply breathtaking, both figuratively and literally we were a few thousand feet above sea level. We hiked through mountains and cannons; walked right up to petroglyphs thousands of years old. The whole experience made me feel small. Exploring this vast desert landscape gave me a lot of respect for the people who lived there for thousands of years.

I long lasting memories I have of this trip will be the people met, my kindred spirits in interpretation, of whom I share many hours of shop talk. People who care deeply about the stories they tell. For every 15 minutes of a tour or program you experience hours of preparation and thought were put in to it. Conferences like the National Association for Interpretation have a direct impact on improving the visitor experience. So whether you come out to our Museum or one of the many hundreds of parks, zoos, historic sites, know that the people giving you a tour or program training and studying to give you a multisensory learning experience in the hopes that you will care about the people and places around you.

A Word from the Education Department

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.

Diana Stone, Education Coordinator is introducing Everett Osceola, Outreach Specialist at "Postcards & Perceptions" Opening

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.

AIAC 2009-Welcome to the Craft Corner!

Hi, I’m Diana Stone, Education Coordinator at the Museum. During the American Indian Arts Celebration (AIAC), Education staff provides a Craft Corner tent to allow the visitor to take part in the festivities.

 

Hi, I’m Diana Stone, Education Coordinator at the Museum. During the American Indian Arts Celebration (AIAC), Education staff provides a Craft Corner tent to allow the visitor to take part in the festivities.  The Craft Corner started in 2007, as a way to engage the youth during the three-day festival and a place to reflect on the inspiring world of Native American art.

AIAC 2008 Craft Corner
AIAC Craft Corner – Transparencies

At any time during the festival you will find staff, parents, teachers, chaperones, etc. sharing and helping children with their crafts. These crafts tap into the aspiring artist in all of us. These crafts, much like the actual Seminole art sold at AIAC, are inspired by the traditions of the Seminole people. Crafts in years past have ranged from Woven Paper Fans shaped like palm fronds fans to painted transparencies of archival and collection images. This year we are creating patchwork bookmarks inspired by the famous patchwork clothing of the Seminoles. While you’re in the tent you will learn about how the patchwork designs have changed of over the years.

AIAC Craft Corner
AIAC Craft Corner - Paper Fans

It is interesting to see how each child makes the craft their own work of art. My favorite part of the Craft Corner is sitting down and talking with the children learning about how they experience AIAC.  I would also like to take this opportunity, to promote a new children’s activity brought to AIAC by the Tribal Historic Preservation Office (or THPO) who will be teaching children about archaeology. The THPO studies the objects left behind by Ancestors of Seminole and other Native Florida Tribes.

This is also my opportunity to mention all the great and wonderful activities for children, ages 1 to 100, to experience at our Museum.  All performances at AIAC and the Museum are family friendly. The performances come from the Seminole Tribe and tribes from across the nation. There will also be an alligator demonstration and a critter show. And if this blog is not enough to convince you to come, email me at dianastone@semtribe.com and I can tell you about the many other reasons you and your family should come to this event.