Education is at the heart of the Minnesota Historical Society (MNHS) mission. Every year, MNHS helps educate hundreds of thousands of K-12 students in the classroom and through visits to historic sites and museums. Many of these opportunities are made possible with the support of the Legacy Amendment’s Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund (ACHF).
“The experiences offered through these programs can be transformational for young people,” said Steve Elliott, director and CEO of MNHS. “By learning history, students gain knowledge they need to become informed citizens.” Participation also sharpens important skills like reading, researching, critical thinking and problem solving. Here are just a few of the innovative ways Minnesota youth become state smart.
Fun, engaging field trips make history come alive for students. Being in the places where history happened gives students a better understanding of the past and how it relates to today. MNHS offers field trips to 18 historic sites and museums around Minnesota. Legacy funding is helping to enhance these experiences.
“Fourteen historic sites are in the process of revamping their field trip programs to engage students more effectively and support the development of 21st century skills, including critical thinking, collaboration and creativity,” said Wendy Jones, director of education. Under the new model, field trips will place greater emphasis on problem-solving activities, incorporate more technology and include online resources requested by teachers and parents. “We know from our research that traditional textbooks and lectures don’t fully engage 21st century learners,” she added. “The new interactive approaches are helping students develop a stronger connection to the study of history and develop skills they will need in the future.”
ACHF-funding also will help an estimated 27,500 Minnesota students experience field trips at Minnesota historic sites and museums statewide in FY14. The high cost of transportation prohibits many Minnesota teachers from taking their students on field trips. The Legacy Field Trip Support Fund offsets transportation costs for eligible schools.
“It’s amazing to see these kids get excited about history and build skills and relationships that are critical to college readiness.”
~ Tim Hoogland, director of education outreach programs
Students and families visiting the Minnesota History Center are able to experience “Then Now Wow,” a new, interactive exhibition all about Minnesota. “Then Now Wow” was funded primarily through a special ACHF appropriation. Since the exhibition opened in November 2012, History Center visitors have raved about the experience and are sharing their excitement. During FY13, family attendance at the History Center soared 73 percent over FY12 and attendance by school groups increased 19 percent during the same time period.
Teachers can extend field trips to the History Center back to the classroom with this ground-breaking new program beginning in January 2014. Students are able to explore the “Then Now Wow” exhibit using iPods loaded with the “Play the Past” mobile application. Back at school, students can access their explorations for further study and projects.
A great alternative to field trips, History Live allows museum educators to visit classrooms via video-conferencing technology so they can lead live, active lessons and two-way conversations with students. With Legacy support, MNHS has been able to introduce an innovative new technique of integrating classroom and student technology, including smart phones, iPods, tablets and laptops into the lessons. This technology allows students to direct their own exploration of digitized primary resources, collaborate with other students to create new digital media and steer discussion during the live video lessons.
Through this program, students in grades 6-12 investigate a historical subject based on an annual theme, then do research and present papers, exhibits, performances, documentaries and websites. Minnesota students are consistently top finishers in the annual National History Day competition in Washington D.C.
Legacy-funded partnerships with organizations like the Associated Colleges of the Twin Cities, Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MNSCU) and the University of Minnesota are extending the reach of National History Day in Minnesota. MNHS staff members coordinate with the universities to provide mentors to public schools with an emphasis on support for students from diverse backgrounds.
“It’s amazing to see these kids get excited about history and build skills and relationships that are critical to college readiness,” said Tim Hoogland, director of education outreach programs. “The partnerships and programs supported by the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund are making a real difference in the lives of Minnesota youth.”