Museums and the Common Core: What’s Your Role?

Last Tuesday, Brooklyn Historical Society hosted the New York Museum Educators Roundtable (NYCMER) in an event dubbed “Museums and the Common Core: What’s Your Role?” The event was open to NYCMER members and the public and the audience wound up being museum educators from across New York and beyond. Common Core refers to the new Common Core Learning Standards which are being rolled out by the State of New York and the NYCDOE.

BHS President Deborah Schwartz welcomes NYCMER and friends.

The night began with an introduction by our fearless leader, Deborah Schwartz who came to BHS after having been the Deputy Director for Education at The Museum of Modern Art and Vice Director for Education and Program Development at Brooklyn Museum. Deborah’s leadership at BHS always ensures that education is part of the institutional thinking process at every juncture. 

NYCMER Common Core Panel

After Deborah’s intro a panel of people who’ve had hands-on experience working in the implementation of the Common Core gave short “elevator speeches” or explanations about their roles. Moderator Dr. Rhonda Bondie shared a powerpoint presentation which is available here. Jody Madell also shared a powerpoint which is here.

This student response to a Van Gogh painting was popular with the crowd. The slide accompanied a lecture by Karen Rosner of the NYCDOE Office of Arts and Special Projects, which is a component of the Office of School Programs and Partnerships

One way NYCMER looked to connect this event to the national dialogue about the Common Core (which has been adopted by all but two states) was to live tweet the event. You don’t have to be signed up for twitter to see that the hashtag#CommonCore” is replete with links to rich resources for educators.

NYCMER Intern Rebecca Mir Live Tweeting the Event from the Back Row

Throughout the night, Rhonda had us break into pairs or small groups to work through some of the tough concepts around the implementation of the Common Core. What follows are some of the ideas that were shared out by those groups.

 

  • Museum visits would build the seven attributes of college and career readiness.
  • Museums are a great resource for “stuff” that can be the basis for inquiry education
  • Museum educators can adopt a shared responsibility for students’ literacy with classroom teachers across grade levels and subject areas.
  • Museums can allow students the opportunities to make a claim about history, art, science, etc., find evidence to back it up, and share their reasoning.
  • Museums can be part of in-depth, project-based learning that draws on the classroom experience, independent conclusions, and the museum visit experience.
 

  • In support of teachers adopting Common Core, museums provide social spaces and broader settings for all learners, especially independent, inquiry-driven investigation.
  • Museums can support common core by encouraging critical thinking through inquiry-based learning, providing pre and post visit curriculum materials that build skills to support common core and encourage classroom support for on-site museum programs, and create interdisciplinary programs drawing on and incorporating multiple subject areas.

  • The Common Core is a great way to instigate better use of museum environments and encourage museum and school educators to take advantage of the content rich resources that support development of observation, questioning, research, synthesis and analysis, presentations skills, and multiple perspectives and help build deep understanding.
  • Inquiry-based learning leads to deeper and more complex understanding, critical thinking, and observational skills.
  • Common Core is about understanding versus just knowing.
  • Museum educators can help make the connections between our museum collections and the classroom.
 

  • Through professional development activities, museums can introduce curriculum materials and test them on teachers to help ensure that teachers understand how to use them.
  • Literacy is everyone’s responsibility; museums can help students construct meaning rather than absorb information.
  • Museums can collaborate with teachers, inquiry teams, and school communities to be a part of (and contributor to) common core’s implementation.
  • Museums provide a forum to apply the Common Core Standards in multiple literacies.

Different Perspectives from the Panelists Helped Contextualize the Common Core - (L to R) Karen Rosner (NYCDOE); James Short (AMNH); Jodi Madell (Lyons Community School); Cynthia Harris-Frederick (NYCDOE)

Finally, BHS Education Assistant Samantha Gibson took a stab at combining all of these great ideas into one “elevator speech” about museums educators role(s) in helping ensure that the implementation of the Common Core is a success:
As museum educators, our role in the implementation of the Common Core Standards is to adopt a shared responsibility for students’ literacy and education with classroom teachers across grade levels and subject areas.  Museum visits and museum-based classroom activities can be a vital part of in-depth, project-based learning that draws on the classroom curriculum, students’ independent conclusions, and the museum visit experience.
Museums can also support common core by continually encouraging critical thinking skills through inquiry-based learning, developing pre- and post-visit curriculum materials that build skills to support Common Core and encourage classroom support for museum tours and programs.  Finally, museum educators can continue to help make connections between our museum collections and the classroom to promote optimal use of these resources by students and teachers.
Special thanks to Rhonda Bondie and all of the panelists who generously volunteered their time to advance the field. Extra special thanks to BHS Education Intern Alex Kenyon who ran AV throughout the evening all of the great NYCMER board members who helped put the event together.

 

About Todd Florio

Todd is the Head of School Programs at the Brooklyn Historical Society.
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