Museum setting for hands-on teaching

Education majors at the university have the opportunity to student teach using tortoises, raccoons, space suits and teepees as their teaching tools.

The Museum School at the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History provides a preschool education program where students learn from artifacts at the museum. University students enrolled in the introduction to early childhood education classes are student teaching at the school three hours per week.

Carley Gunter, a sophomore education major, said teaching at the Museum School provides a hands-on environment that she might not experience student teaching at other schools.

“We usually learn about animals,” Gunter said. “We have 20 minutes to go in, and the kids get to be with the certain animal that we discussed that day.”

Ranae Stetson, associate professor of education, teaches one of the introduction to early childhood education classes and said she thinks the preschool program at the Museum School is exceptional. The university has had a 15-year partnership with the museum, she said.

Stetson said students would take the theories they learned in her part of the course, a lecture component, and apply it to the classrooms at the school.

“As soon as they hear the theories in my part of the lecture they go into the classrooms to work with skilled mentor teachers and do everything in developmentally appropriate ways,” Stetson said.

In addition to the student teaching opportunities, the school is located in a new multi-million dollar facility. The school tore down the old facility, which was located in the same spot, and built a new and improved building, which opened this spring.

Stetson said the new facility had a lot of support throughout the community.

“This new facility at the Forth Worth Museum of Science and History and the preschool program that is housed there is light-years ahead of where most programs like that are,” Stetson said.

The new classrooms allow preschool students to learn by interacting with live animals and historical artifacts from the museum. Students will learn by observing real teepees and a space suit when they study Native American history and space.

Jeannie Wolfe, Museum School director, said the school was fortunate to get to use objects from the museum.

“We can do things experientially, and we don’t have to test them,” Wolfe said. “We don’t care if they know that a rabbit is a mammal. We want them to know that a rabbit is fun and soft and furry.”

Wolfe said the school’s goal is to make sure that students had fun experiencing the things around them.

Watch the TCU News Now museum school report.