Itís no secret. The economy is in trouble.
And museums are affected as much as the banking, housing, and manufacturing industries we're constantly hearing about on the news.
Since many of us rely on admissions, donations, and grants to stay open Ė and all of those things are shrinking Ė museums today are just trying to survive too.
Many museums rely heavily on field trips to meet expenses. But at the same time, school budgets are being cut. So how can we keep them coming, even with these challenges?
Here are some ideas:
Give teachers what they need. Your programs must show the ways in which teachers can meet state education standards by visiting your facility. Gone are the days when teachers could just take their kids to an amusement park for a fun end of the year trip. Sure, teachers could figure out how your programs align to the standards they must teach, but teachers are busy. You need to provide them with the documents they need to help them justify a field trip. If you arenít sure how to go about this, create a Teacher Advisory Board to help direct you. You will probably find that most of what youíre already doing fits into one or more standards, but you might also find ways to create new programs to make your museum attractive for field trips.
Give a good tour. This may sound like a no-brainer, but it really is important. Do you use volunteers as docents? When was the last time you followed their tour to make sure they were doing what you want them to do? If your guides arenít engaging the students, teachers may not see the value in coming to your museum.
Donít talk at the students for an hour. Ask questions. Get them excited about what youíre telling them. Build in a hands-on activity with them. Play some kind of game. Make your tour as interesting and engaging as possible.
Employ a variety of learning styles. Not every student learns the same way. Some students need to see a photograph to understand what theyíre learning. Some learn by doing something with their hands. Try to incorporate as many different kinds of activities as you can.
Help out with funding, if you can. Most student admission rates at museums are quite reasonable, so that isnít the real problem. Sadly, lack of funding for busing is often the hardest obstacle to overcome for teachers. Some museums have been able to create partnerships in the corporate world to provide grants for busing. Some dedicate a portion of their membership fees to help defray field trip costs.