It’s hard to believe, but it’s back to school time again…the time when kids become sadder, parents become happier, and teachers start planning their upcoming lesson plans. For interpretive sites, it means the return of a core audience group: local school children visiting on field trips.
Educating these young minds is one of the most important – and enjoyable – duties of interpretive sites. We have the opportunity to fill these young minds with knowledge, in an engaging and hands-on manner that few others can equal. When these bright eyes and fresh smiles emerge from their yellow buses this year, will you be able to meet their needs and provide them with the best possible experience? Here below are some tips for making your site a top notch resource for your local schools.
- Offer field trips specifically designed to meet your local schools’ curriculum standardsA teacher has to justify each field trip that their class takes by linking it to specific curriculum standards they are required to meet. Do your homework: research your state’s curriculum requirements for each grade level, and design field trips that meet these.
- Offer different field trip programs for different grade levelsToo many interpretive sites offer only a single field trip program – whether the visitors are in kindergarten or in eighth grade. Naturally, once students have seen it, they have no need to return at a later grade. Your site should offer multiple programs, each one specifically tailored to the interests and learning level of that age group.
- Offer in-classroom visitsMost schools limit the number of off-site field trips that students are allowed to take. Why not go to them? More and more interpretive sites are sending their staff into local classrooms, often with “traveling trunks” and “mini-museums” of objects, artifacts, and specimens.
- Offer lesson plans and other resources on your websiteCreate lesson plans, educational games and activities, and reading lists specifically catered to multiple grade levels. Feature these in a prominent place on your website, and spread awareness of these resources to local educators.
- Host a “meet and greet” for local educators
Invite local teachers and administrators to your site, perhaps for a special “educators’ meet and greet.” Use this opportunity to introduce yourself and your site – and to gather feedback on educators’ needs and desires.
What have we forgotten? What other ways does your site reach and inspire local school children?