As mentioned in the last installment of this View from the Porch, teachers are the nut we need to crack in order to gain field trips.   This can be accomplished on a field trip, but that only proves you can talk to children – what about talking to adults.  Enter the Teacher Professional Development Opportunity.


Archaeology mini-dig boxes

The vast majority of teachers in America graduate from teacher training programs which means that they majored in teaching and pedagogy and educational theory…NOT in a content area like history or science.  They certify in the area they teach by taking additional coursework either at the graduate level or through workshops or both.  This is where historic sites and museums come in.

The big guys — like the Smithsonian — already offer training for teachers, but it’s rare to find it at house museums and small museums.  You don’t have to have a staff of thousands, or even dozens to pull it off.

  • First, figure out your strengths. What can YOU offer the teachers that they will enjoy learning? Try as much as possible to align it with your State Standards. Can’t think of what to teach.  The Library of Congress has a workshop you can steal on Teaching with Primary Sources.  Check it out!
  • Second, familiarize yourself with how teachers must maintain their certifications in your state — usually a visit to your state’s Department of Education website is a good place to start.  You must have your workshop approved through the State or local districts, so  verify how that process works.
  • Third, partner with a retired Master teacher, your state Humanities Council,  another museum or nature center, or all of the above.

    Educator learning about Monarch Butterflies -- up close!

    Educator learning about Monarch Butterflies — up close!

  • Next design a workshop — the more hands-on the better.  Advice to the newbie — keep it short, 1 to 3 days unless you really have the staff and energy to do more.  Your curriculum should be hands-on (teachers don’t like to be lectured to) and include lesson plans that can be picked up from your workshop and implemented immediately in the classroom.  Remember too, while your site may interpret (insert name of dead white guy here), that person/family did not live in a vacuum.  You CAN teach about science and technology as well as nature and history. Teaching about moon launches may not be appropriate for a Civil War site, but what about the medical advances of that time.
  • Then, write a grant to get it off the ground.  The grant can pay for supplies, like consumables, notebooks and flash drives for the teachers, honorarium for guest speakers, and even a field trip to take the teachers to visit another site.  Be sure to plan for food — teachers will always come for good food.  When budgeting, keep the cost reasonable for the teachers, $100 or less depending upon the number of professional learning units you are offering.
  • Finally, advertise advertise advertise.  Refer to the View from the Porch on Field Trips for how to advertise directly (and for free) to teachers.

    Civil War “housewife” program

At our facility, we have two staff members, one summer intern and no volunteers.  Every summer we put on four weeks of summer day camps and four or five educator workshops.  I teach two of the workshops; co-teach a third workshop, and two workshops belong to other organizations, but they use our space and include our resources in their programs.  Once an educator signs up for one of our workshops he or she will generally attend them all and will begin booking field trips or out reach with us.  We have taken two of our workshops on the road for teacher in-service days, a service for which the schools/districts are happy to pay.

Educator workshops can be an entirely new avenue into the school district for you.  They are a way to reach new audiences.  And, they give you and your staff the opportunity to show what you know!

Michelle Zupan is the Curator & Director of Hickory Hill in Thomson, GA. She is the Chair of the AASLH Historic House Museums Committee