A school group has an electrifying experience at Carnegie Science
Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh’s
Education programs support teachers and inspire young minds.
is here, and children are back in school. And at Carnegie Museums of
Pittsburgh, back to school season means teachers turn to the museums for
information, ideas, and support as they plan their curricula and field
trips for the school year. Each year, approximately 200,000 school children
from kindergarten through high school visit the four Carnegie Museums of
school groups visit the museums throughout the year, March through May is
the busiest time for field trips. In the spring, visitors will find rows of
yellow buses parked outside and hundreds of eager students roaming the
exhibitions inside. “It’s not uncommon to drive by the Science Center on
any given day in May to find 12 or more buses lined up waiting to drop
students off or pick them up,” says Roland Gagne, director of Education
Marketing at Carnegie Science Center. “At our peak, we’ll see more than
2,000 kids every day.” Teachers
should schedule museum trips early in the school year to assure they get
the time they want.
Making Learning Fun
most students think of their field trips as a fun day out of the classroom,
their teachers know that a visit to the museums is a unique way to bring
their coursework to life. “Teaching today can be a very tough job,” says
Richard Matthews, director of Science for the Pittsburgh Public Schools.
“And Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh is doing everything it can to make our
jobs easier. They really want children to come to the museums and get
excited about learning.”
support teachers in their ongoing quest to broaden their students’
experiences and make learning enjoyable, the Education staff at Carnegie
Museums of Pittsburgh have developed tours, classes and special programs
for students that are creative, innovative, and interactive. In addition,
each of the four Education departments offers special teachers-only
workshops that introduce educators to the museums and show them how they
can supplement their curricula with museum visits. Each course meets the
criteria set by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s Act 48, which requires
teachers to pursue continuing education credits.
be difficult for some teachers to see how or when a visit to the museum
fits into their curricula,” says Megan Burness Yin, head of school and
teacher programs at Carnegie Museum of Art. “So we work with them to show
that whether they’re focusing on the arts, social studies, language arts,
or science, the museums have something valuable to offer their students.”
Children Learn by Doing
Carnegie Museum of Natural History, students can learn about almost
anything on Earth. Whether a class is studying geology, mammals, Native
American culture or Ancient Egypt, trained museum educators work closely
with teachers to design visits that will support the specific subject
matter each class is studying.
example, an elementary class studying dinosaurs might enjoy a docent-led
tour of Dinosaur Hall, including
a stop at PaleoLab to watch how
fossils are removed from stone, followed by a stop at BoneHunter’s Quarry to try their hand at unearthing fossils
themselves. In this way, the material they may otherwise only have discussed
in the classroom or seen in books is brought to life before their very
eyes. At the end of their visit, the children leave full of excitement and
wonder, and the teachers leave with post-visit materials that help extend
the learning experience into the classroom.
strive to make a big impact on the children and teachers who come to visit
us because we want them to come back again and again and discover something
new each time,” says Diane Gryzbek, chair, Division of Education.
town at Carnegie Science Center, discovery takes a slightly different form.
There, teachers and students learn science by doing science. “At Carnegie
Science Center, we encourage students and teachers alike to learn about
math, science and technology by exploring it,” says Roland Gagne, director
of Education Marketing. “By participating in the activities, shows and
exhibits we offer, children learn how math and science are all around
preschoolers are learning about how things work, middle schoolers are
learning about Earth science, or high schoolers are learning about the
human body, there’s something for every child at Carnegie Science Center
and UPMC SportsWorks. The
combination of interactive permanent exhibits, hands-on science workshops,
and OMNIMAX movies make learning about science an adventure.
kindergarten class was learning about soil and trees. We talked about how
plants get their energy from the nutrients in the soil and air, but it
wasn’t until we visited the Science Center and attended a life science
workshop that it all started to make sense,” says Michelle Markovich from
the Gateway School District. “They loved it because it wasn’t just sitting
and listening. Everything was hands-on.”
If Art Could Talk
year, students come from all over western Pennsylvania and beyond to
participate in Carnegie Museum of Art’s guided gallery visits and
studio-based programs, which focus on the power of art to strengthen
students’ analytical thinking skills. “We’re not interested in lecturing
about works of art. Instead, students are encouraged to make observations,
ask questions, and exchange ideas about what they see and the role of art
in their lives,” says Megan Burness-Yin, head of school and teacher
programs. “By doing this, they begin to develop a personal point of view
about what’s important.”
developing and communicating their own ideas about art, students begin to
develop an understanding of how all forms of visual communication—from fine
artwork to advertisements—convey ideas, and, more importantly, they begin
to think critically about the things they see. Similarly, students who
visit The Andy Warhol Museum are encouraged to explore the museum’s
collection and to think and talk about how the works of art relate to
issues society faces today.
Warhol, our education programs emphasize critical and creative thinking.
Through our artist-led tours, we teach children that both making art and
viewing it are creative processes. We encourage students to explore their
own personal responses to artwork and give them the information and skills
they need to examine the world critically and creatively,” says Jessica
Arcand, The Warhol’s curator of education. “Hands-on art-making activities
give young people a sense of all the creative ways they can influence the
world around them.”
tours and lesson plans provided by the staff at The Warhol and Museum of
Art can be customized to meet a group’s specific needs, most teachers find
that the general focus on interpreting the art and sharing opinions is more
than enough to stimulate the learning process.
two classes of third-graders to the Warhol and I asked them what they
expected to see,” says Zee Ann Peorio, a local elementary school teacher.
“What they experienced was totally different than what they anticipated.
They saw that art isn’t just a picture on the wall. It can be an
environment you walk into, something you interact with, even something you
can touch and feel. Andy Warhol really impressed them. I see an influence
in their artwork and the other things they do. They’re more observant and
pay more attention to details. They not only learned about art, they saw
how it affects their lives.”
Connections That Last a Lifetime
helping teachers show children how and why the things they learn in the
classroom are important in real life, the museums serve an invaluable role.
“Our job in the Education division is to help children make a connection
between what they’re seeing in the museums and what they’re learning in the
classroom in a way we hope they’ll never forget,” says Diane Gryzbek.
can and should be fun,” says Roland Gagne. “If it is, children are likely
to learn and retain more. That’s why our staff strives every day to find
new ways to make education exciting. You never know which child is waiting
for just the right flicker of inspiration to become the next Van Gogh or
Madame Curie. We want to create that spark.”