Three College of St. Joseph students sit on red and yellow stools, looking markedly out of place hunched over a small blue table covered in Legos. One is building a car, the other is sorting, and the third is fervently taking notes.
The students are just one group involved in the College’s collaboration with Wonderfeet Kids Museum, which allows CSJ students to develop curriculum for an exhibit at the Museum.
The partnership began in the spring of 2016, when Dr. David St. Germain, chair of the College’s Education division, met with Wonderfeet’s Executive Director Myra Peffer to determine if there was a way students could apply the skills they were learning in the classroom at the Museum.
“Myra stated there was a need for curriculum, based on their exhibits, for the staff and parents to use with the children,” St. Germain said.
The Museum – which opened in summer 2011 and has since transformed into an invaluable community jewel – had recently named Paula Townsend, a retired teacher from Rutland Town School, as its director of education and she began collaborating with St. Germain to best identify the needs of the Museum, which served more than 17,000 visitors in 2016 alone.
“Collaboration with CSJ Education students is a mutually beneficial partnership. The museum gets creative ideas that we can use to expand the experiences for families and schools,” Peffer said. “The teachers and pre-service teachers in the CSJ classes have the opportunity to learn about informal education and how the museum can provide programming that enhances formal classroom.”
St. Germain informed students in his Curriculum Development course last fall that one of their assignments would involve developing curriculum for Wonderfeet Kids Museum.
“The majority of the students in this graduate-level course are classroom teachers, many of whom have young children and have enjoyed bringing them to the museum,” said St. Germain. “The idea of creating something that other parents could use was exciting news for the students.
Students Garrett Brewer, Aaron Bloomer and Phil Hall selected the Lego exhibit to develop curriculum around, which included a minimum of three lesson plans, student assessments, and technology and print resources. Townsend opened the museum after hours so students could delve into the exhibit and develop a solid understanding of how it worked.
The final document produced by the students was more than 10 pages, and Townsend worked with the museum’s education committee to modify and condense the work.
“The end result is a booklet any parent could use to guide his or her child through the exhibit and develop an understanding of certain scientific principles they might not otherwise be aware of,” St. Germain said, noting that the booklets are currently available to visitors at the Museum.