FC: "Something About Sandburg" at the Carl Sandburg Home NHS | Photo courtesy of the National Park Service
1: On April 30th, 2012, I observed the "Sandburg Alive" education program at the Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site which is run by the National Park Service and is located in Flat Rock, North Carolina. Their mission is "to carry on the legacy of Carl Sandburg’s works and life for the benefit of future generations through preservation, interpretation, education and inspiration" (http://www.nps.gov/carl/parkmgmt/index.htm). According to the Education Handbook, "Sandburg Alive" is an inter-disciplinary curriculum based education program for middle school students which incorporate language arts, social studies, history, science and drama. During the tour, students "step back in time on a tour of the Sandburg Home, explore genetics while visiting the barn and reflect while reading, writing and acting poetry" (http://www.nps.gov/carl/forteachers/planafieldtrip.htm). There are also pre and post visit activities that are available to the teachers. While the themes and objectives were mentioned in the lesson plan for each of the activities, there were no mention of goals. Yet, I would argue that the goals were to encourage stewardship of the park while allowing the students to connect with Sandburg and his poetry and be inspired to create poems of their own.
2: Marketing | The education manager marketed the program either through brochures to local schools, such as the one seen here, or through the park's website (http://www.nps.gov/carl/forteachers/index.htm)
3: As Anderson notes (2006), teachers revealed in a study how it was important that field trip activities be congruent with the classroom curriculum (p. 370). Although the park's website said all education programs were tied to National and North Carolina state course of study standards, I could find no mention of the specific standards that the programs aligned with in the lesson plans. The park may be able to better market its programs if educators are easily able to identify which standards are covered in park's programs.
5: The day began with an introduction to the National Park Service, Carl Sandburg and a preview of the days activities. The park ranger had the students act out Sandburg's poem "Fog." This relates to Spock's (1999) argument that the social component is often very effective, such as for teaching poetry and it is important that the students are co-collaborators in creating a museum experience (p. 147 and 149). The group of about sixty middle school students were then split up into three rotations and alternated between going on a house tour and journaling activity, a barn visit and genetics activity and a dramatic reading called "Sandburg Alive," where the students acted out several of Sandburg's poems. For the purpose of this assignment, I am only going to focus on the first two activities.
6: House Tour
7: A group of twenty students were taken on a 30-minute house tour where a ranger used various pedagogical and interpretive techniques to engage them, such as searching for clues and answering questions.
9: The students were next led to the outcropping behind the house where Carl Sandburg would write and were asked to spread out and write a poem. They then came back together and shared some of their poems with their classmates.
10: Barn Tour | Photo courtesy of the National Park Service
11: The students were next introduced to Mrs. Sandburg's dairy goat operation and to the three dairy goat breeds at Connemara Farms: Nubians, Toggenburgs, and Saanens. This portion of the program was led by barn volunteers who unfortunately were not directly trained by the education department. While there was a strong institutional commitment to the docent/volunteer program at the Sandburg site, the volunteers could have been better trained on effective presentation techniques for school groups, learning styles and group management(Johnson, 2009. p. 33-5). The volunteers were very knowledgeable about the subject matter, but could have used additional practice developing their interpretive skills and in using hands-on materials (Johnson, 2009, p. 39-40). This could easily be remedied through continuing education and followed up with volunteer evaluation (Johnson, 2009, p. 41 and 44).
12: Genetics | In this activity, students worked in pairs to investigate the basic hereditary information of a particular goat. After the initial investigation, students discovered genetic links between their goat and other student’s goats and then went out into the pasture to met their goats’ families.
13: They used an original goat Certificate of Registry to complete a laminated genealogy tree.
14: Evaluation | This questionnaire, which would most likely be categorized as remedial evaluation, is given to teachers at the end of the field trip to assess whether the learning objectives were met (Cutler, 2009, p. 119). However, the education program manager admitted that it is not a very effective tool in assessing the program. While it does provide quantitative data, in the past teachers were often unwilling to answer open-ended questions (Cutler, 2009, p. 121).
15: References Anderson, David, James Kisiel, and Martin Storksdieck. "Understanding teachers perspectives on field trips: Discovering common ground in three countries." Curator 49 (July 2006): 365 - 386. Cutler, Nancy. "Evaluation." In The Museum Educator's Manual, by Anna Johnson, Kimberly A. Huber, Nancy Cutler, Melissa Bingmann, and Tim Grove 117-127. Lanham, Maryland: Alta Mira Press, 2009. Johnson, Anna. "Docent Training Guidelines." In The Museum Educator's Manual, 29-46. Lanham, Maryland: Alta Mira Press, 2009. Spock, Michael. "Elegant Programs and Conversations." In Presence of Mind: Museums and the Spirit of Learning, edited by Bonnie Pitman, 141-149.Washington, DC: American Association of Museums, 1999.