Fairfield Museum partnering to create lessons, field trips
Published 12:00 am, Saturday, February 11, 2017
FAIRFIELD — For years, the Fairfield Museum and History Center has walked some of the town’s elementary school students through local history, perhaps describing when British troops set Fairfield ablaze during the Revolutionary War or offering a taste of Colonial life at Ogden House, which dates back to 1750.
But now the center, its focus on Fairfield and neighboring areas, is working with public schools to weave primary sources and its educational sites and resources into every public elementary school classroom in Fairfield.
The Fairfield Museum currently works with second- and fourth-grade students on a school-by-school basis, but the museum’s offerings are likely to be institutionalized into Fairfield’s new social studies curriculum next school year.
Museum Director of Education and Community Programs Christine Jewell said working the partnership into the curriculum will allow equal access for students.
“All the students will have the opportunity to participate in the same thing,” Jewell said. “Some teachers love history and they’re really enthusiastic about it.”
Upcoming for the Fairfield Museum and History Center’s education efforts
The Sun Tavern and the Victorian Cottage and Barn are set to reopen in June after renovations.
The museum is launching a new docent recruitment program and high school docent program. The high school program, to run through the summer, will accept applications from rising ninth graders and aim to give them experience with history, education, public speaking and guiding tours.
But, she added, “in elementary school they’re teaching multiple subjects — so it’s hard for some teachers to get behind social studies because they may not know about the history of Fairfield. They’re always asking us for resources, all the time.”
Fairfield schools chose to partner with the museum, a valuable resource they felt they needed to take advantage of, said Michael Cummings, the district’s director of elementary education. The decision, he added, was influenced by state standards’ recent shift to focus on local history for elementary school students.
“You’ve got all this really important history that has happened here,” Cummings said. “Our challenge is to help kids understand it at the local level, but put it in relation to what was happening in the colonies and the country as a whole.”
The Fairfield Museum will begin piloting some new programs for students this spring, Jewell said, but currently she is using the drafted curriculum and “digging deeper,” pulling together primary sources. While the museum has and currently does work with town schools, the new efforts would mark the first time its programming and resources are integrated into district-wide plans.
The lessons and out-of-the-classroom experiences will be for third and fifth-graders, a shift from the grades the museum currently works with by request. Among programs would be a fifth grade trip to the Sun Tavern, a colonial-era hotspot among several museum properties under renovation and set to reopen in June.
The museum, however, will continue working with the second and fourth grades upon request, too.
Field trips — for all grades — are what helps make history stick in kids’ minds, Jewell said.
“They don’t remember the textbook, so it’s really wonderful just to give them authentic experiences like to go inside a 1750 house,” she added. “They can’t do that in the classroom.”
In the Board of Education’s proposed 2017-18 budget, $25,000 is earmarked to fund the museum’s work with the new curriculum, according to Cummings. The bulk — $18,000 — would be for assured experiences, an annual field trip cost that would vary year to year based on class sizes. Remaining funds would go to development of teacher resources and a presentation by museum staff for teacher professional development, one-time costs.