the Superintendent’s Seat
Making Of A Museum
Dr. Carole G. Hankin with Randi T. Sachs
number of years ago, children at a Syosset elementary school found
what appeared to be animal bones in the schoolyard. They brought
them to their teacher and asked how they could find out where
they came from. The teacher turned to her principal, who in turn
asked her colleagues if anyone could help. An administrator at
one of our middle schools said she knew a paleontologist and he
might be able to help. He did. Dr. Bryn Mader told us that the
bones were from a deer and praised the students for their discovery
Dr. Mader, who teaches at a local college, had been working on
his own project for years. He had amassed a collection of prehistoric
bones, fossils, and cast replicas and had obtained accreditation
to form “The Long Island Natural History Museum.” He asked me
if I could help and the idea intrigued me. Could a school district
house a museum?
Our district has established partnerships with the finest museums
in New York. Our students learn from professionals at the Metropolitan
Museum of Art, The American Museum of Natural History, and the
Museum of Modern Art. These museums are truly institutions of
education and the programs that we have designed with them can
be modeled by other school districts across the region. Now we
had an opportunity to be a part of the beginning of a new museum
for Long Island.
One of the many great assets of the Syosset School District is
the way we work together. Many people were involved with this
project, and they all responded enthusiastically and capably.
First, I discussed the idea with our Board of Education. They
are always willing to provide our students with special opportunities
and this was no exception. We agreed to house the museum in exchange
for the use of facilities by our students and faculties, and the
consultation services. We identified a room we could convert in
one of our middle schools, which could spare the space.
Of course, our science department worked on a lesson guide that
teachers could use to link the exhibits on display to their own
curriculum. We quickly saw that students could use the museum
not only to study science, but that the teachers could plan lessons
on just about any subject.
Our art teachers got involved, and the result is a wall of wonderful
drawings of dinosaurs by our middle school students. This month,
after about six months of planning and preparation, we celebrated
the opening of The Long Island Natural History Museum with a ribbon
cutting ceremony. At the ceremony I remarked that it was especially
nice to have this museum open in the district at a time where
one of our priorities is building a computer/communications network
that will provide our students with state-of-the-art technology.
It’s still nice to take a break in our museum and imagine a time
when dinosaurs inhabited this world.
The first students to visit the museum were kindergartners, and
the looks on their faces told it all. Wow! Here were giant skulls
and fossils in a school right near their homes. Imagine the drawings
they would create back in their classrooms and the stories they
would tell their families.
It will be exciting to see how the students in the entire Syosset
district use this museum. There are lessons available for every
grade level, and we look forward to our high school students getting
involved in research with our consulting paleontologist.
One of the most important things in education is to teach our
children to keep their minds open to possibilities. This museum
is the first of its kind in any school district. We saw a possibility,
gathered our team together, and can now point to the results with
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