Lesson Plans, School Tours, & Local History: Educational Facilitator Melodie Van Der Meer Summarises Her Summer

As a returning student at Heritage Park Museum, I was given more responsibility and the opportunity to learn and grow in my own way. Working as Educational Facilitator this summer was extremely beneficial to me on a professional level, as I plan on becoming an elementary school teacher. Through this position, I was encouraged to develop my skills in organization and coordination, as well as further my abilities in educating both children and adults. I was also able to network with educators in the community and strengthen ties between the schools and the museum.

All members of Heritage Park Museum’s staff were expected to greet visitors and give regular guided tours of the museum. We all took part in the museum’s large events and activities including St. Jean Baptiste Day, Canada Day, Riverboat Days Museum Workshops, and Kids Culture Camps. We also hosted bi-weekly seniors teas, monthly lectures, and several weddings. Taking part in these events greatly increased my skills in planning, teamwork, leadership, and communication. In particular, the activities that required me to work with children such as the Kids Culture Camps were most beneficial to increasing my abilities for my future career.

As Educational Facilitator, I was also given tasks that would help me develop my skills specifically in the field of education. During the course of the summer, I wrote two local history lesson plans. These were created with the intention of circulating throughout schools in the area in an attempt to bring local history to the classroom. The first was a lesson plan about the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway. This lesson plan is aimed at elementary school students. This year (2014) marks the centennial of the last spike in this rail line and the first passenger train making its way through the Skeena Valley. I used a local history publication as the base of my lesson plan, and also networked with people from Terrace who had experienced the effects of the railway first hand. By doing this, I was able to create a plan that was both informative and interesting.

The second lesson plan explores the Terrace Mutiny. This lesson plan is geared towards middle to high school students and elaborates on Terrace’s rich military history. To create this lesson plan, I relied heavily on a manuscript created by a former Heritage Park Museum summer student, Karen Kuechle, who produced it in 1983. Writing these lesson plans was very beneficial to me, as it made me step out of my comfort zone in regards to writing. Throughout the past four years, I have been accustomed to writing for a university-level academic audience, and found that writing for students was significantly different than writing an academic paper. However, my experience in the latter made the transition to lesson plans easier, and I feel much more confident in my ability to produce original lesson plans.

School tours are a large part of Heritage Park Museum’s scheduling during the months of May and June. Despite the province-wide teachers strike, I was still able to coordinate eight class tours with local schools. Not only were class tours arranged, but I also instructed my fellow summer students on how to alter our regular tour scripts to fulfill curricular expectations depending on the grade. All together, these tours brought in just over 100 visitors to Heritage Park Museum. To organize these visits, I had an email circulated to teachers in the school district. Over a dozen tours were booked; however, many had to be cancelled due to the strike. This was a setback and disappointment, but the focus was shifted to the rest of the summer’s tasks.

The first major event of the summer was the third annual St. Jean Baptiste Day Celebration. One of my goals this summer was to incorporate educational opportunities into our community events. At St. Jean Baptiste, I began doing so through a scavenger hunt that I collaborated with the museum’s Community Programmer to create. Aimed at primary school-aged children, this activity was created to encourage children and their parents to more deeply explore the museum in addition to enjoying the days’ events and other activities. The scavenger hunt can be given to children at any time to foster critical thinking while enhancing the children’s experience at Heritage Park Museum.

The second major event of the summer was our Canada Day celebrations, which saw almost 2,000 visitors. For the majority of the event, I was in charge of leading children (and sometimes adults) in relay games. This was a fun and exciting way to spend the day. Prior to the event, I was a bit intimidated by the idea of leading such large amounts of people. In reality it went very smoothly and gave me a chance to grow in my practical leadership abilities.

In addition to working at Heritage Park Museum this summer, I also took a weeklong experiential learning course through the University of Northern British Columbia in Barkerville, British Columbia. Because of my work at the museum, I was able to write a paper on a Terrace pioneer who also spent time in Barkerville. This was a wonderful opportunity to write a unique paper and incorporate knowledge from both aspects of my summer.

Working with children through school tours and museum events helped me develop skills that will be useful in the education field. Learning more about local history aided my studies, and creating lesson plans was a concrete way to incorporate local history into a classroom setting. Coordination with coworkers on events reminded me of the importance of organization, communication, and teamwork. These skills will undoubtedly be invaluable in my future endeavors and I look forward to putting them to use.