Why I Hate Museums

As a teacher, do you ever feel this way?  Are you disappointed when you take a field trip with your students?  That the effort is not worth the return?  You aren’t alone. This was the title of a recent article published on August 22 on the CNN Travel website. In this case the author was describing museums as places were curator’s “collect and cage” artifacts and then expect the visitor to be as excited about the item but with only a minimum of information.


When you take your class to a museum you should expect more.  Your visit should engage your students.  They should be involved in learning and not listening passively to a walking lecture.  They should experience learning by doing with hands-on objects, investigating higher-order questions that require analysis and evaluation, and exploring topics that make them the expert (that they share with other students back in class).


How do you get this type of visit?  First visit the museum’s website to see what they provide.  If you don’t see it, request it. Museums today should be very interactive—especially with students.  To provide the best experience for your students, all museum educators should adhere to this maxim when creating student programs, “I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I understand.” 


At the Kansas Museum of History, kshs.org, we offer a number of interactive, engaging tours.  Your students can work on the railroad, investigate Indian homes, journey on the Oregon Trail, and explore the lives of Kansans in the Civil War. 

Anniversary of Quantrill’s Raid

August 21, 2013 marks the 150th anniversary of Confederate guerrilla William Quantrill’s devastating raid on Lawrence.  The raid took 150 lives and left 80 women widows.  Even the most ardent Kansas State fans would have to agree that it was a horrible and despicable deed.


Quantrill’s raid was not an act of war but an act of terrorism carried out on innocent civilians. Every day newspapers provide stories about current terrorist atrocities around the world and at home.  The recent heinous Boston Bombing would make a good discussion “bridge” from the present to the past.  Why do people make war on civilians? What is the perspective of the terrorist versus the victim?  What can be done to stop this type of warfare?


The Kansas Historical Society has a Read Kansas! lesson that addresses two different perspectives on the 1863 raid.  “The Civil War Comes to Kansas: Quantrill’s Raid on Lawrence” (M-16) is available on the website, kshs.org/17325.  It is already aligned to the new Kansas Standards for History, Government, and Social Studies as well as the Kansas College and Career Ready Standards. 


When you are in Topeka be sure to stop by the Kansas Museum of History to see the other “survivors” of the raid.  Burned musical instruments, melted glass, and a charred Bible speak volumes about the personal devastation of terrorism.

HGSS + KCCRS = Integrated Lessons

I spent last Friday at a workshop in Salina with a group of fifty dedicated teachers learning how to implement the new History, Government, and Social Studies standards in their districts.  It was “training the trainers” as districts look at writing curriculum and implementing best practices, literacy expectations, standards and benchmarks.  Don Gifford, Education Program Consultant for History, Government, and Social Studies for the KSDE, began with a PowerPoint presentation on the new standards.  I highly recommend you take a look and then share it with your fellow teachers.  It is highly informative and has just the right amount of entertainment, a Jay Leno “Jaywalking” clip and, my favorite, the woman trying to ignore the nail in her head– change is hard and usually unwelcome. Here’s the link: http://hgss_implementation_workshop_june_21_2013_salina

Beth Ratway, Senior Consultant at American Institutes for Research, spent the rest of the day sharing training modules from her Building the Bridge website http://tinyurl.com/ssccss.  As stated on the website: “This site was created to facilitate professional development focused on the instructional shifts that Social Studies teachers will need to understand to effectively implement the Common Core Standards (CCSS) in English Language Arts. Each Shift will be addressed through this professional development effort and links to examples and resources will be provided.”  The modules will give you tons of great ways to get students “doing” history, government, geography, and economics.

As we prepare to celebrate America’s 237th birthday next week, don’t forget to include a museum visit as part of your holiday tradition.  Your support is necessary to keep these institutions alive and working to preserve and interpret our nation’s cultural history.