Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Exploring Place: A Park for Every Classroom @Morristown

Morristown has some exciting educational projects underway! We were selected as one of eight parks in the Northeast region to pilot A Park for Every Classroom (PEC).

The goal of PEC is to develop a model for teacher professional development that engages teachers in immersion experiences that lead to unique place-based, teacher-created programming. Teachers who participate in PEC develop curricula that foster student understanding of and appreciation for the public lands and cultural heritage institutions in their communities. The teacher-developed curricula integrate hands-on natural and cultural explorations that address concepts in history, ecology, sense of place, stewardship, and civics.  At the heart of the PEC program is the belief that students who are immersed in the interdisciplinary study of "place" are more eager to learn and be involved in the stewardship of their communities, local heritage, and public lands.

We are enthusiastic that specialized, teacher-led programming really resonates with students, and in our quest to continue to provide relevant and meaningful park experiences, we have partnered with Newark Public School teachers and Rutgers University Newark instructors. We aim to expand the reach of park resources and provide a space for teachers to utilize those resources as an extension of their classrooms.

For this pilot year (2011-2012), we have partnered with Ms. Elizabeth Aaron, Outreach Coordinator for Public Education in the Department of History and for the Institute on Ethnicity, Culture, and the Modern Experience, at Rutgers University Newark.  Ms. Aaron has 15 years of classroom experience and teaches education courses at Rutgers in addition to her other duties.  The park coordinator for this project is Sarah Minegar, archives technician and museum educator at Morristown NHP. Together the two are developing an educators’ toolkit and intensive workshop series for teachers.  Ultimately, the idea is to bring Newark Public School students to Morristown to participate in resource rich immersive experiences. We want students to see how their National Parks' resources connect to their own lives.

We have also workshopped with several teachers from Newark Public Schools at various stages of this project.  These educators and our workshop participants will help us to evaluate and develop our educational offerings.

Our park is unique in that we can boast amazing cultural and natural resources that are layered with historical, cultural, geographical, and scientific curriculum potential. We are excited to invite teachers to maximize these resources to enhance their students’ interdisciplinary learning experience.

The Morristown National Historical park campus is comprised of four diverse sites:  Jockey Hollow, Fort Nonsense, New Jersey Brigade-Cross Estate, and the Museum and Washington’s Headquarters Unit. Located just a short train ride away from Newark, Morristown NHP offers the proximity and diversity of resources teachers desire.

In the near future, it is our intention to expand this program to more schools and districts. We’ll be posting updates on our progress this summer.

Stay tuned!

Morristown NHP will not be holding a typical Primary Source Seminar or Archival Ambassadors program this year. The division of cultural resources is excited to share with our friends that a new Park Service initiative, Park for Every Classroom, has started and our programs have been selected as prototypes for this new service-wide initiative. We will still be offering limited opportunities for students and teachers this spring and summer, so please check back often or give us a call. 973-539-2016 x215 (Ms. Minegar) x214 (Dr. Pfister).  

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