Wednesday, January 20, 2016

School Library and Museum Collaboration

Museums and schools should be natural partners. So, when I began working at a high school library three-and-a-half years ago, one of the first things I did was seek out an institution willing to try something a little different. My goals were mainly twofold:
  • Promote hands-on learning and STEAM / Makerspace education in my town, while showing students the value of collaboration 
  • Promote museum educational programs and outreach
Students check out the 3D printer that will
be used to build drone parts. It was acquired thanks
to a museum education grant that included our school.
I was willing to work with any type of museum, with the hope that this project will expand and perhaps involve multiple museums in the future. In July 2014, I met with a like-minded science museum director in my area to discuss ideas about a potential collaboration. This winter, our partnership and year-and-a-half of planning is resulting in a project launch with my high school teens. I have described our project on Donor's Choose as follows:

Our first collaborative project is to design and build a drone. The project will help students gather and evaluate information. It will support innovation, creativity and critical thinking. With the help of the librarian, administration, teachers, and museum staff, it will allow students to become comfortable with collaboration and communicating with experts. Students will work within a budget, create an engineering project plan, build a drone kit and modify the drone with CAD and a 3D printer, create a documentary about the experience, design a web site, write articles for the school paper and other media outlets outside of our walls and deliver presentations about our work.
This project is open to all students and will cater to varied interests and abilities.

Students will engage in authentic learning, picking up skills that will serve them in a 21st century world. Furthermore, the project will boost our sense of community due to its large-scale collaborative nature. We hope that this will serve as a model for other non-formal learning opportunities. [Donor's Choose, 2016]
In my original planning document I state the following: 
Students are invited to learn in an environment that distinguishes itself from the traditional classroom experience - to explore, to be creative and to discover new ways of thinking. We aim to make our school a model for community learning that brings informational and cultural tools from around the world into our educational space.

We see collaboration as an important part of our learning experience. Collaboration gives us more ways to access information. It enables us to rely on group diversity to accomplish tasks. It gives us multiple perspectives for more efficiently solving problems. Collaboration can help us grow ideas, stretch our minds, and garner new tools for information seeking behaviors.

  • We aim to make learning fun and to connect it to the real world.
  • We aim to help students adapt to different ways of communication, exploration, inquiry, and evaluation of information using diverse low and high tech tools.
  • We aim to help students understand that you learn for a lifetime.
  • We aim to show students that success relates to caring about something, getting involved, and following through with an idea from inception to completion. [GHS/McAuliffe Shepard Partnership, 2015]
 ...In fact, these points are what libraries are all about in the 21st century:

We most effectively reach our audience to convey these concepts and provide these opportunities through collaboration. I believe that such school and museum partnerships should be the model for the 21st century to the benefit of both institutions.

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