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What Taking History to Underserved Communities Taught Me About Museum Education

by Katie Grammenidis, Fellow, Columbus Foundation on

This summer, I am completing a fellowship program through The Columbus Foundation at the Ohio History Connection. I have been facilitating History to Go, an educational outreach program that goes to community centers and schools with history programming. The fellowship is ten weeks long, but these ten weeks are flying by. Despite the relatively short amount of time that I have been at the Ohio History Connection, I have learned quite a bit.

 

A Young Boy Trying the Water Yoke

A young boy tries out the water yoke

 

I’ve learned about the passion and hard work of my colleagues. I spend a considerable amount of time out of the office in order to facilitate History to Go, but when I am in the office I can see how hard everyone works. It’s apparent that they work this hard because they truly care and believe in what they do.

Smiling while playing with Jacob's ladder

Smiling while playing with Jacob’s ladder

I’ve learned that the unlikeliest of artifacts can be relatable. My fellowship program is allowing me to take History to Go to those who normally wouldn’t have access to it. This means that I’ve taken History to Go to lower income and immigrant communities. Despite the fact that I am an immigrant from Greece and my supervisor is part Iranian, my supervisor and I were worried that the kids would not be able to connect to some of the programs, like Pioneer Life. However, I’ve learned that these artifacts were relatable to them. For example, when I went to a Nepalese community many of the children related to artifacts like the water yoke. Why? Well, some of the kids that had been born in Nepal had similar methods of carrying water when they had lived in Nepal. These Nepalese children related to the artifacts in ways that many other children may not be able to. The students may not have known about American pioneers to begin with, but once they learned about their way of life, they found similarities with their own lives.

Of course, this is not to say that students should not get the opportunity to learn about their own history. Some of the feedback that we have received is that it would be beneficial for there to be programming providing a diversity of perspectives. As History to Go continues to expand and develop, I know that it will do so with this mission in mind. I believe being able to teach about the history of more cultures would be beneficial to students of all backgrounds. While we already have programming that is focused on American Indians, we need to have even more programming that can showcase the experiences of many. Just as the Nepalese students found pioneer artifacts relatable, all students should have the opportunity to relate to a vast array of cultures.

A young girl showing off the necklace she made.

A young girl showing off the necklace she’s made

I’ve learned about the stories of those around me. While working with people from a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds, I’ve learned about them as individual human beings. One boy told me people get shot in his neighborhood when looking at musket balls. One girl told me that they had communal refrigerators at the refugee camp when talking about food preservation methods. One girl who was a volunteer told me about her journey to America and how she is now going to college at Ohio Dominican. The beautiful thing about working with people is hearing their stories. Some of their experiences are unlike my own; some of their experiences are similar to my own.

I think what educators can take away is that we are all human beings with our own stories that should be shared, acknowledged, and appreciated.

I’ve also learned about what if feels like to be appreciated.  I’ve always loved learning new information. By bringing enthusiasm and history to kids, I get to share that passion. That results in getting hugs, smiles, getting told “thank you for teaching us about history,” and even scrapbooks.

I’ve learned a lot so far through my experience. I am very fortunate that my fellowship program is helping to create connections with target communities in the Columbus, Ohio area. I can’t wait for the outreach and programming that the Ohio History Connection and the wonderful people who work here will continue to do.

If you’d like to read more about my fellowship experience, please look at The Columbus Foundation fellowship blog.

 

Thank You Scrapbook

Thank You Scrapbook

 

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