The Learning Power of Engaging Exhibits
Exhibits are excellent tools for teaching history, culture and critical thinking skills, promoting the school community, and improving aesthetics. Exhibits are big and bold. They attract interest and introduce topics people might not otherwise consider, often encouraging further study and conversation. They engage the senses on a level not often encountered in our daily print and digital worlds. Washington, DC already has a rich environment of traveling and permanent exhibits. The Story of Our Schools brings this idea into the community by helping local schools develop unique story lines about their specific school and community. Not only do these exhibits inform prospective parents and teach students, they also create welcoming spaces designed for learning. They provide opportunities for enhancing curriculum, inspiring further research projects, and sparking engaging conversations.
Each school will tell a different story. Some schools will consider their historic role in the community in relation to broader sociological changes. Some will tell stories of successful graduates, both celebrities and ordinary people, to give students an image of the possible. Some will tell the story about the people the schools are named after. The story line opportunities are endless.
Each site’s exhibit design is unique based on the selected themes, the physical space, and the available resources. Throughout each exhibit, introductory texts present an overview of each topic and the exhibit that follows will draw people into the space with a wide range of techniques that might include: large wall-sized photomurals; photographs and graphics; artifact cases displaying objects like pennants, trophies, athletic gear, or art projects; technology to showcase video and audio including oral histories with long-term residents; interactive elements such as flip-books or touch-screen computer modules; or a “Junior Historian’s Corner” to allow students to further investigate the topics presented and display additional work. Schools are busy places, so exhibits are made of high quality, durable, exhibit-grade materials that allow for easy cleaning and are, as much as possible, maintenance-free.
Accurate and Engaging Stories - Through Students' Eyes
A critical part of our process is an exhibit committee at each site that includes students, teachers, The Story of Our Schools staff, school administrators, parents, and community leaders. The exhibit committee is charged with guiding a high quality, engaging exhibit development process and supporting outreach and communications efforts.
With the guidance of dedicated teachers and a standards-aligned curriculum, students have the opportunity to participate throughout the exhibit development process, gaining critical analytical writing and creative skills. The Story of Our Schools’ approach is grounded in experiential or project-based learning strategies that seek to create student-centered, hands-on learning environments. Students develop meaningful questions to explore, research the answers, collaborate with classmates to develop and, ultimately, present their work to others. At each step in the process, teachers act as facilitators, providing guidance with regard to the core skills - like researching, writing, and presenting - while allowing for student self-direction at a high level.
By teaming with DC historical institutions, students will learn research techniques and experience precious historical collections and artifacts first hand. If audio or video elements are selected, students will have the opportunity to interview community members or family members for a documentary presentation. Ultimately, the final story is approved and produced by a coordinated effort among The Story of Our Schools, a historian and/or historical institution, and the school’s exhibit committee. The collaborative process will ensure that the story is appropriate for the school, factually accurate, and lends itself to exhibition.
- Reinforces research, analytic, and writing skills in a real-world setting
- Incorporates multimedia into projects
- Instills a sense of pride in one's school community
- Teaches teamwork, communication, and collaboration skills
- Provides experiential learning opportunities through field trips
- Creates a positive legacy for students
- Increases social and cultural capital
- Provides curriculum for a year-long research-based learning program
- Facilitates students' leadership throughout the research and development process
- Incorporates project-based learning with support from expert educators, curators, and historians
- Aligns with rigorous DC standards
- Invests new partners in the school
- Provides opportunities to engage members of the broader community in the learning process
- Creates a new learning and visitor space
- Tells a unique story that the school community wants to share
- Brings unique element to school building modernizations
- Brings history alive through the exhibition space
- Engages the broader school community
- Informs prospective families
- Excites long-term residents