Ah, the museum field trip. The ubiquitous scavenger hunt through the galleries or docent-guided tour. Group trips are a staple for museums and classrooms and represent an important relationship between a museum and the communities they strive to serve. However, these experiences are the tip of the iceberg on how your class can engage with these kinds of institutions across the country and the world.
As a Museum educator, my main goal and desire is to make the lives of teachers easier, by providing accessible, thought-provoking, and enriching content for classrooms. When I introduce myself to teachers, I usually explain that I am a “pretend” teacher. I get to share really fascinating content about World War II with students, but I don’t have the typical administrative duties, grading, parent meetings, and the myriad of other things on teachers’ plates. I can’t help with that stack of essays waiting to be read, but I can share useful tools to engage with primary sources and present compelling cross-curricular lessons to your students. These resources are not just for local teachers (although we value that relationship too!), but for educators across the country.
As part of the WWII Media and Education Center, my colleagues and I develop lesson plans, present Virtual Field Trips, create digital media, manage service learning programs, rent out artifact trunks, provide professional development, curate student-relevant digital collections, and much more.
In recent years, the Museum has invested in digital education, constructing an entirely new building on campus to deliver programming to schools and lifelong learners. This space includes a state-of-the-art distance learning studio, to present the Museum’s Virtual Field Trips, which are live videoconferences for students and teachers. Since Hurricane Katrina, the Museum has connected online with classrooms, to bring in new audiences while New Orleans was rebuilding from the storm. However, this is the first major update to these programs since their inception, making them more immersive for students and utilizing the latest technology. We are committed to sharing the important lessons of WWII and providing accessible primary source-rich resources for educators.
My top suggestion to teachers is to reach out to the education staff at a museum they admire, whether near or far, and discover what they have available for you. Review tech-savvy educator and District Integration Specialist Paige Somoza’s recent blog about running a successful virtual field trip, reach out to me, and try something new.
Our job is to support you and… (get ready for a military pun) we’re reporting for duty!
Chrissy Gregg is the Assistant Director of Distance Learning at The National WWII Museum in New Orleans. She has been with the Museum since 2011 and oversees the variety of distance learning initiatives for both K-12 and lifelong learning audiences, reaching tens of thousands of participants a year. This includes the Museum’s award-winning Electronic Field Trip series, which are highly-produced webcasts featuring student reporters exploring important World War II sites and stories. Chrissy has presented about distance learning at the Mid-South Distance Learning Association Conference, National Service Learning Conference, Association for Communication Excellence Conference, the Southeastern Museums Conference and ISTE.