For too long school has taken place mainly within the four walls of a classroom. This has been especially true in early childhood where field trips are often viewed as a nuisance for the adults rather than a gift to young children. This is not the case at SEEC. I marvel daily as I see teachers happily bundle up children from babies through kindergarten to take them out into the museums and other sites around the DC area. You see, at SEEC, we believe in the power of real and that children learn in ways that are richer and deeper when they get a chance to see the real items.
Imagine how a study centered around the Wizard of Oz is more meaningful for a group of 4 year olds when it starts with the actual ruby slippers, extends to exhibitions about caves where emeralds come from and the gem exhibition to see actual gems; moves from visiting Marla the tin woman piece in the Smithsonian American Art Museum to compare it to the Tin Man in the story to the Library of Congress to see the original book where you discover that Dorothy didn’t wear ruby slippers originally!
Imagine how the study of wheels is richer for a toddler when they not only see wheels in books and photos but go to the National Museum of American History to see them on covered wagons, trains and old cars; to the Metro to examine the cars of the train there; to the Hirshhorn to look for wheels in art and notice that the building itself is shaped like a wheel before they even enter the museum. While we are lucky that we have all these rich resources outside our door, in reality every neighborhood has its own set of resources. A toddler class in the city could go out and look at buses, various cars, motorcycles and bikes. A class of four year olds could go to the local shoe store to see shoes, a jewelry store to look at emeralds and the library to look up the book. The key is to get out of the classroom. Make learning real. Let children explore the real objects and make connections to their own lives.
At SEEC we believe that museums of all types and in every city should play a more active role in the education of our children. We believe that learning should be a search for knowledge rather than sitting in a classroom being fed information. We are trying to share our work more widely to try and build stronger bridges between school, museums and home. At SEEC, we believe that it does, indeed, take a village to educate a child.
Posted on behalf of SEEC Executive Director Kimberlee Kiehl