Students and teachers who can't get to Jamestown Settlement or the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown will, by this fall, have a new, interactive way to learn about early American history.
The Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation will begin to offer a live, distance learning component for schools across the country beginning around November.
Peter Armstrong, senior director of museum operations and education at JYF, said the story and origins of the American Revolution have a nationwide, and international resonance. Offering distance learning allows the foundation to extend its reach beyond the two museums.
“What we have here is the real possibility of having the stories and the information that actually are internationally interesting,” Armstrong said. “(Though) I can’t bring tourists in from Germany … I can do something that gives us that impact with modern technology.”
Anne Marie Baker, who was in charge of a similar effort at the Mariners Museum in Newport News from 2009 to 2016 as its director of education and distance learning programs, will head up the foundation’s efforts as its outreach education manager.
The program is not designed as much for local schools as it is for ones outside the state who will not likely get to either Jamestown Settlement or the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown. The foundation already has a program in place that travels to classrooms in Virginia.
“The story of Jamestown and Yorktown is not just a Virginia story,” Baker said. “It’s a national story, and so we want to be able to reach students in the other 49 states, and with video conferencing, we can even reach people in other countries.”
Baker said it’s going to be similar to the foundation’s current outreach, with each program she and the foundation develops entered into an online database of distance learning programs through the Center for Interactive Learing and Collaboration website.
The Mariners Museum in Newport News, Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library and Museum in Staunton and the Virginia Museum of History and Culture in Richmond currently list distance learning programs in the CILC database.
In the database, each museum or content creator provides information about the program, including the museum or content provider, contact information, program description and objectives, how many students can participate, target audience, national and state standards the program reaches, the length of the program, its cost and how the program gets beamed to the classroom.
Classrooms will be able to access the program through Google Hangouts, Skype in the Classroom, FaceTime or another similar videoconferencing system.
The Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation plans to start with a single hour-long program, piloting the program to about 25 schools. Once they’ve participated in the program, Baker will make adjustments based on feedback from teachers and students, and then begin a second program that would pilot as the first program gets put into the CILC database.
That first program, Baker said, would likely be one to support the 2019 Commemoration. Her goal is to alternate program development between Jamestown Settlement and the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown.
“We’re going to start out a little small until people get to know what kind of programs we can offer,” Baker said. “My goal is to hit about 350 sessions a year.”
Armstrong said the distance learning program will serve to strengthen the core mission of the foundation.
“It’s an educational mission, and there are many ways of educating people that’s not necessarily about getting people to come to the museum,” Armstrong said. “It’s great when they do … but we also have a mission to say, ‘How do we get the stories of early America out there as well.’”