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Museum Roadshows Aid School Budgets

American Museum of Natural History by Ricardo Martins (Flickr Commons)

Schools across the country are facing tight budgets. Moreover, they are under pressure to ensure that their students receive more “seat time.” The upshot? Schools are booking fewer museum field trips, according to the New York Times. Boston’s highly rated Museum of Science says their school visits are off by 30 percent. New York’s Museum of Modern Art and American Museum of Natural History are among the many others reporting a sharp decline in school trips.

As a result, the Times reports, several museums are turning to what Boston Science educational specialist Katie Slivensky calls “backwards field trips.” Via travel programs, videoconferencing, and computer-based lessons, the museums are coming to the classrooms. Next year, the Museum of Science has nearly 1,000 classroom visits scheduled, 400 more than three years ago. Topics offered in its traveling shows range from Animal Adaptations to Cryogenics. It also has a portable, inflatable planetarium. New York’s natural history museum is offering teachers more classroom materials, both in print and online.

Museum officials feel the outreach programs are a valuable alternative to field trips, but they worry about dissuading people from visiting museums. Christina Moscat, another educator at the Boston science museum, told the newspaper that the road show presentation on fossils provides greater focus on what paleontologists actually do, “but they (students) miss the wow factor of actually seeing that huge Triceratops skeleton.”

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