A celebration of teaching and learning

A railroad spike…A 45 RPM record adapter…Baleen as long as my arm… Our netbook… And a whole bunch of handouts.

We were ready to head to New York City for our teacher workshop!

As a member of the Thinkfinity.org consortium, we were invited to present a teacher workshop at the WNET Celebration of Teaching and Learning in New York City. Working with teachers has always been one of my favorite aspects of museum education, since every teacher we reach can impact the lives of hundreds of students.

We’ve done a few webinars in the past, but this would be my first in-person workshop in a while. Would the teachers ask questions I couldn’t answer? Would we have enough handouts? Would anyone be interested in a workshop with a ridiculously long title like “Real Stories, Real Stuff: Online Resources from the Smithsonian and Teaching Social Studies with Objects?” No. No. And YES!

Teachers, curriculum specialists, and administrators filled our workshop to the brim!Teachers, curriculum specialists, and administrators filled our workshop to the brim!

We had a standing-room-only crowd at the workshop, and we had so many attendees that even with 25 extra sets of handouts, some folks had to share. And in return, the teachers shared their wonderful enthusiasm throughout the session.

With the rail spike, 45 adapter, and baleen, we made the points that objects can be the starting points for a wide range of topics, objects are compelling, and they can help get people thinking creatively about big questions. And with the hundreds of activities and primary sources we have online, we can help teachers excite their students about history learning whether they live in Oregon, Florida, or right here in DC.

It was exciting to hear the sounds of confirmation from the crowd, and how they planned to add our primary sources or activities to the lessons they already teach. Several teachers also volunteered to help with future resources by reviewing or “test-driving” them with their students before we published them.

P1020486The presenters took a breather and quick photo after the workshop.

I’m sure this all sounds like a terrible tease for teachers who weren’t part of the magic that early Friday morning, but much of what we discussed is already online, as part of the “teacher’s page” on Smithsonian’s History Explorer. Check the teacher’s page for frequent updates, highlighted resources, tips for teaching with objects, and polls that will help shape our upcoming projects.

Jenny Wei is an education specialist who loves teaching and learning… online, in person, at museums, in classrooms, and with learners of all ages. She copresented will Carrie Kotcho (education technologist) and Heather Paisley-Jones (education specialist).