Imagine an afternoon of exploring the Center of the West’s five galleries: you begin by delving deeper into the rich culture of the Plains Indians and the vital natural resources that surrounded them. Or, perhaps, you’re interested in checking out the Draper Museum to discover the native species who live in Wyoming’s mountainous regions. Maybe you even have a little time to tour the Whitney and investigate representations of the West through breathtaking artwork.
But what happens when the Center of the West isn’t a short car ride away? What if the museum could be brought to you? With the Center’s Skype in the Classroom program, it can!
This program that inspires rich learning opportunities for students began in May 2013 and is growing every day. In a recent conversation, George Miller, the Center’s Educational Web Content Creator/Outreach Educator, weighs in on the latest developments taking place during our Centennial year.
How did the Center’s Skype in the Classroom Program get started?
Originally, this program began as an organization for teachers. Miller explained that there are actually several Skype in the Classroom programs worldwide. Once the Center implemented its own program in May 2013, teachers who were interested would email education staffers to schedule a time for a lesson. Now, as the program has evolved throughout recent years, educators can simply visit our online calendar to register.
How has this program grown in recent years? What do you attribute that to?
Miller noted that staff members were excited to recently learn that they have been teaching roughly 3,000 students per month. Miller also noted that the addition of two new part time teachers has been vital in reaching more classrooms, and that these individuals have been key players increasing the number of students taught. For a heatmap that represents our Skype program’s reach, click here!
This program provides a lot of youngsters throughout the world with such a comprehensive view of the American West. Are there any specific concepts that students find especially intriguing? Are there any common questions you receive?
While all Skype lessons offer a unique perspective on the colorful history of the American West, the Center’s Amazing Animal Adaptations lesson is the most popular amongst students and educators. Miller explained that many enjoy the pre Animal Adaptations activity; students are asked to draw a picture of an animal, which then sparks an engaging conversation during the lesson about the adaptations that animal must have in order to survive.
Do you have a favorite lesson to teach? If so, why?
Miller noted that he really enjoys teaching The Stories and Culture of Plains Indians and Buffalo lesson because the material always facilitates a great discussion about the importance of recognizing different cultures. Additionally, this lesson creates a bridge to a similar theme that is repeated in the lesson Do You See Me Like I See Me? for high school students.
This program has reached 52,445 students since May 2013. Do you envision this program continuing to flourish at such a rapid rate?
Interestingly, Education staffers have been tasked with doubling the number of students reached. In fact, they hope to begin teaching lessons earlier in the morning to accommodate folks in different time zones. Miller said, as a result, he believes the program will continue to expand.
To learn more about the Center’s Skype program—and maybe even schedule a session with us—click here!