Museum grant to help expand educational programming

The Fairfield Museum and History Center has been awarded a $20,000 grant from the Fairfield County Community Foundation to support expansion of the museum’s educational programs.

The grant award will help the museum to present more educational programs for students, families and educators from Fairfield and surrounding communities.

“This is a tremendous honor and a prominent recognition of the Fairfield Museum’s excellent educational programs” said Michael Jehle, executive director. “Part of our mission is to use the power of history to inspire imagination, and nowhere is that more on display than within our educational programs.”

Last year, the museum welcomed more than 16,000 visitors, including more than 5,000 students who visited during the school year from towns throughout Fairfield County, including Stamford, Weston, New Canaan, Trumbull, Norwalk, Monroe, Newtown, Westport and Bridgeport.

Many of the young visitors were participating as part of curriculum developed specifically to engage with themes represented in museum exhibits. In addition, approximately 750 student and adult researchers from across the United States used the museum’s special collections library.

“We know that children exposed to cultural education are more likely to show improvement in academic achievement and social development,” said Elaine Mintz, program director at the Fairfield County Community Foundation. “Programs like those at the Fairfield Museum and History Center offer the high level community-based education and cultural enrichment that drives youth success in other areas.”

As part of its mission to use history to strengthen community and shape its future, the museum creates educational programs designed to share art, history and culture with every age group. Specialized programs include storytelling, art instruction, oral history presentations, thematic camps and family day activities.

This fall, the museum will introduce “Creating Community: Exploring 375 Years of Our Past,” a family-centered exhibition that will invite visitors to explore the history of Fairfield and its region for more than 300 years. Visitors can look inside a Native American wigwam, climb into an American Revolution fort to decipher a spy code, and learn how factories fueled the area’s growth in the early 1900s.

Creating Community will act as a catalyst for the museum’s multi-year effort to develop new educational programs that serve even more students and communities throughout Fairfield County. The exhibit is focused on elementary and middle school students, as well as family and adult visitors, with activities that will engage all in exploring the past. Additional programs will serve teachers and students across grade levels through professional development, online resources and educational materials.

Professional development for educators is offered on an on-going basis at the museum. In 2012, regional educators were given the opportunity to learn about successful incorporation of culturally relevant curriculum presented by professors from Yale, UConn and Fairfield University. By bringing this know-how back to the classrooms, educators can truly engage students in the material; something the museum works to promote.

“Our most successful programs have been those which involved partnering with teachers to develop field trips, classroom kits, pre- and post-visit activities, lesson plans and objectives which address their goals,” said Christine Jewell, director of education and community programs. “With that in mind, we are planning an exciting series of professional development workshops for regional educators in conjunction with the upcoming Creating Community exhibit which will open in the fall as the new school year gets into full swing.”

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