Recently I had the opportunity to meet with Toivo Motter, Director of Education at Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens in Akron, Ohio.  As with my role with the Edsel & Eleanor Ford House, Toivo has been charged with developing new education programs that bring in a variety of disciplines in addition to history.Ford-House-water-quality-program1

The location of Ford House gives us access to over 3,000 ft of shoreline property bordering Lake St. Clair.  The Fords’ love of boating and the water surrounding the estate has inspired us to develop programs that provide access to these resources.  Working with local schools and environmental science teachers, Ford House has begun a program of water quality monitoring using Lake St. Clair and the Milk River as study points.

In conjunction with this, Ford House has become a certified GLOBE testing site.  GLOBE is a worldwide hands-on, school-based science and education program (  This program provides a variety of standard protocols in which students input water quality results into a global database.

Ford-House-water-quality-program-2Ford House worked with Wayne RESA’s science coordinator to provide both training in the protocols for both teachers and staff.  Students who visit the Ford House for these programs receive an historical overview of the family including their love and respect for the water and how that respect has translated into a legacy that continues with Ford Motor Company today.  Many groups who are engaged in ongoing testing come back for history tours of the house.

When I visited with Toivo this past summer he shared with me a successful program for incoming 9th grade students enrolled at Akron’s National Inventors Hall of Fame STEM High School.  The students spent time participating in experiential learning activities on the Stan Hywet 70 acre estate.  These students were involved in a week-long Summer Bridge Program in which they were challenged to create a web-based interpretive presentation on what they would uncover during a two day visit to Stan Hywet.

Students-at-Ford-HouseFor this program, Toivo created the curriculum in collaboration with teachers from the school.  Three special tours focusing on Stan Hywet’s architecture, landscape design and technology were crafted for the students with follow-up activities designed to reinforce details.  During each follow up activity, students worked in groups to view and assess primary source materials including archival blueprints, letters and historic photos.  During a second visit to the estate, students formed teams, brainstormed ideas and continued research by taking photos and videotaping interviews with docents and Stan Hywet’s director of historic structures.

Using all the resources that had been collected over two days, the students were given the assignment to interpret a feature of Stan Hywet and to create a web-based presentation for public viewing.  Technology played a big role in the project, as students used a variety of programs and tools to compile information, conduct interviews and create multimedia presentations accessible via the web.


Students-working-at-Stan-HywetThe program concluded at the school with an open house where students showcased their projects, accessible via student-created QR codes.  The procedure that was used during the program was modified in order to fit within a short timeframe.

As one STEM instructor stated, “To be in their community and creating something that someone could really use–that is the motivation.”

These two programs provide a couple examples of how museums are diversifying their offerings to broaden their services to area schools.  How has your site utilized physical education, STEM, art, etc. to develop new programs with diverse appeal?  Please share your examples.