Programming in a Pandemic
It goes without saying that this year has presented some interesting challenges. One such challenge facing educators nationwide is how best to engage young learners in an online format to present meaningful content. The education team here at the Tri-Cities Historical Museum has been hard at work brainstorming ways that the museum can best present meaningful and useful programming to the schools we serve, and trust me when I say that it has been an adjustment! Typically, museum educators do our best to find ways to make the museum a more hands on experience through events and programming - so switching lanes to a 100% hands off format has been a little tricky. However, with feedback from our area educators on what content they would like to see from the museum and the way they would best like it to be delivered, we have come up with a few different ways to package and present our fall programming and I would like to share how we arrived at our plan with you!
First and foremost it is most important to ask your audience what they would like to see from you! Whether working with public or school programming, everyone's abilities, equipment, and needs/wants are going to be different. Instead of placing all the work and research on yourself and your team, reach out to your community to see where your energy would be best utilized!
Second, have a few varieties of modes that you can offer your programming. There is no need to reinvent the wheel in regards to the content you are offering for every platform - adjust the content for the vehicle! This could mean that you create a virtual, live, and physical version of the same content so that the individual utilizing the material can do so in a way that would best fit their plan. The Tri-Cities Historical Museum offers themed kits that we typically would bring into the classroom for programming, however, since we will not be able to be in the classroom at all this school year, we have devised three separate packages these kits can be offered in:
1.) Virtual Kits
We think that these “History on the Go” virtual kits will be among the most used of our fall programming as they can be easily integrated into a teacher’s lesson plan. In a nutshell, these kits will include an interactive google slide set with audio clips, five minute field trips of the exhibit that the slide set is based around, and print out activities that the teacher can use if they are in person. We are currently in the process of digitizing these kits and hope to offer five choices by early October.
2.) Physical Kits
While we cannot be in the classroom, we would like to offer the option to have touchable activities for teachers that would like them. In order to do this safely, we are duplicating five of our physical kits so that we have two of each. These physical kits would then be able to be signed out on specific days of the week - one in the earlier and one later so that each kits can sit through a three day quarantine period before being used by a new group. These kits will include all of the virtual programming as well as activities and objects that the students would be able to see and touch with protective measures in place.
A final option for live programming we are pursuing is holding zoom programming for teachers that would prefer this option. This program would allow us to show the students the objects via zoom and discuss the content that the teacher requested while also being able to answer student questions and hold conversation.
These three methods are just a few examples of how programming could be offered virtually this fall. As mentioned above, the most crucial step is to figure out what your audience would like to see from your institution. While zoom has been a great way to connect with individuals through the ongoing pandemic, some patrons just can’t handle another zoom session or do not have the equipment to properly enjoy zoom programming. Providing flexible programming options allows for a majority of patrons to enjoy the programming that you are putting out in the way that works best for them.
Tre Goodhue, Assistant Education Curator & Volunteer Manager