Museums Say They're Making More Links to K-12

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Museums large and small not only are expanding their educational programs, but also are beginning to design their guided field trips, traveling exhibits, and other offerings to fit the school curriculum, a survey has found.

While education has generally been a cornerstone of museum services, the survey conducted by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, an independent federal agency, concludes that museums are committing more staffing and money to serving school-age children than ever before. The 450 museums that responded to the survey, considered a representative national sample, report that they are more likely to collaborate with schools to meet curriculum standards than in the past.

"Museums are deepening their relationships with schools," Diane Frankel, the institute's director, said in an interview last week. "The results of this survey make clear that schools use museums as resources for teaching in every subject."

Nearly nine in 10 of the 9,833 museums around the country that are eligible to receive federal funding--whether located in urban, suburban, or rural areas--provide school programs. Of those, about half serve all grade levels, though most concentrate their programs on grades 3-6.

Types of museums surveyed included aquariums; arboretums; those focused on art, history, or science and technology; historical sites; nature centers; planetariums; and zoos.

Social Studies, Arts Covered

Teachers generally worked with museums' education staffs to ensure that the programs met school needs, though museum officials retained most of the responsibility for programming, the "Survey on the Status of Educational Programming Between Museums and Schools" found. Social studies and art are the subjects most likely to be covered in a museum visit or outreach program, followed by science and language arts, the survey shows.

For More Information:

The "Survey on the Status of Educational Programming Between Museums and Schools" and an accompanying case-study workbook are available free by calling the institute at (202) 606-8339. The survey is available on the World Wide Web at and the workbook at (both require Adobe Acrobat Reader).

Museums in the United States collectively schedule nearly 4 million hours of educational programs a year, according to the survey.

But while they collectively spend almost $200 million on activities designed for schools, funding of such programs is not enough to guarantee that all schoolchildren have access to them, Ms. Frankel said. On average, a museum spends between $2,240 and $7,530 a year on educational programs, out of annual operating budgets of $105,000 to $190,000.

Those with larger budgets are more likely to have extensive school-related activities, the report notes.

This was the first time the institute canvassed the nation's museums to gauge the extent of services offered to schools. Because of differences in how museums categorize their programs and break down their budgets, Ms. Frankel said, many may have underreported their educational offerings.

In addition, the dependence of many museums on volunteers to organize and run programs led to inconsistencies in the responses to the survey's questions on staffing. Fewer than half the museums that provide education services devote at least one full-time staff member to such activities, according to the survey.

The institute expects greater consistency in reporting on the next survey, which is expected in about five years. It also expects schools to continue to take advantage of the cultural resources in their communities as a way to challenge students and reach children with varying learning styles.

The institute has tentatively planned a separate survey of schools to gauge the frequency and purpose of museum visits.

Vol. 18, Issue 24, Page 3

Published in Print: February 24, 1999, as Museums Say They're Making More Links to K-12
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