The Penn Museum encourages exploration at all ages. Our Learning Programs invite schoolchildren and adult visitors alike to engage with the Museum’s collections and resources in order to learn more about the ancient world and contemporary world cultures.
Watching the enthusiasm of my students as they come face to face with real artifacts is priceless and inspiring.
Teacher on Unpacking the Past program
In May 2018, the Museum launched an innovative program designed to engage more diverse perspectives in our renovated signature galleries. The Global Guides: Immigrant Stories Program hires and trains area immigrants and refugees to tell stories when interpreting the galleries that showcase collections from their countries of origin. Speaking from “lived” perspectives, these guides combine first-person narratives with context for objects highlighted on their tours, making ancient material more accessible and relevant to visitors and connecting it to local communities.
The Museum’s first group of Global Guides leads tours in the new Middle East Galleries. The program will expand to the Mexico & Central America Gallery and Africa Galleries after they open in fall 2019.
The Global Guides Program is generously supported by The Barra Foundation’s Catalyst Fund, which invests in innovation to inspire community-strengthening change in the Greater Philadelphia region.
Seeing how Moumena’s face lit up as she explained the culture was so heartwarming.
Visitor after her tour with Global Guide Moumena Saradar
Interactive workshops draw on the Museum’s collections and teaching resources to spark learning in students of all ages. In 2017–2018, Museum educators connected with 8,214 students through free programs. They reached more students and teachers than ever before through Unpacking the Past, the Museum’s partnership with the School District of Philadelphia that offers Philadelphia Title I middle school classes studying ancient civilizations the opportunity to have an educator travel to their school in a GRoW Annenberg “Mummy Mobile” for an introductory session, then visit the Museum for a tour and workshop on ancient Egypt, Rome, or Mesopotamia.
The opening of the Middle East Galleries offered an exciting opportunity for new related workshops: a simulated archaeological excavation site workshop, “You Are What You Wear,” on Mesopotamian jewelry for Unpacking the Past; a “Ceramics Lab” workshop for high school students to learn about analyzing pottery and ceramic artifacts; and a hands-on cylinder seal workshop for elementary school students.
Other programs like the long-running International Classroom program connect classrooms with other cultures through speakers’ lived experiences.
Unpacking the Past strives to be exactly what I hope for in any field trip. The program creates structure for learning and taps students into a vast system of expertise.
Michael Furman, Mayfair Elementary School
The Museum reached more than 18,000 people last year through 192 outreach programs. The Artifact Loan Box program brings the Museum into local classrooms with free boxes of materials and lesson plans, and teacher professional development programs expand teachers’ resources for exploring ancient civilizations with their students. Some of these programs connect people to the Museum from across the world: the Virtual Classroom uses video conferencing to connect Museum educators to classrooms for remote workshops from the Unpacking the Past and International Classroom programs.
By partnering with community and cultural organizations to bring free learning programs into the city’s neighborhoods, the Museum strives to be an active part of our community. These community programs broaden the Museum’s impact and strengthen our partnerships with local groups. Through events like the Philadelphia Science Festival, West Philly Star Party (in collaboration with The Woodlands and Penn Astronomy School), Discovery Day in West Philadelphia (in collaboration with the Mütter Museum), and Carnival on the Parkway (in collaboration with the Middle East Center), Museum educators speak to nearly 2,000 people in our community each year.
The Museum seeks to engage all of our visitors, including those with special needs, and, in 2017–2018, offered expanded programs designed specifically for these visitors. The Museum’s professional educators taught 148 accessibility programs throughout the year, both in schools and at the Museum, which drew 1,270 participants.
Expanded offerings included Family Access Programs and Tactile Trips Around the World, which invited families to the Museum for tours and activities designed for their needs. Specialized Unpacking the Past programs offered 789 students with special needs opportunities to practice critical life skills within their community, empowering them to feel at home in museums throughout their lives. Other programs like Touch Tours welcomed 240 blind and visually impaired visitors to experience the Museum’s renowned ancient collections through the sense of touch. A new partnership with the AJ Drexel Autism Institute and Community Integrated Services led to the Employment Pathways Program, which employed four high school seniors and two juniors with autism for paid positions with Learning Programs and the Museum Gift Shop.