Rosie Arnold - Education Programs Manager
Exceptional teachers can change your life. They can bring something out in you that you didn’t even know you had. They look at you, and they see your potential, and they make you think that you can achieve anything. They are so passionate about what they teach that you can’t help love it too. Theirs are the classes you look forward to because, with them, learning is a joy.
I hope all of you have had at least one exceptional teacher in your life. I have been fortunate in that I have had many teachers from elementary to graduate school for whom I am truly thankful. There are two though, who really stick out. Without them, I would not be the person I am today.
Mrs. Clark, my AP U.S. History teacher, is pretty famous among my high school’s alumni. Everyone who takes her class loves this woman. Her passion for history and for people is inspirational. She has the ability to get teenagers to think outside themselves and their own time to truly examine the context of the past. She challenged us to put ourselves in the position of others. She exposed me to things that ignited my curiosity, fostered my empathy, and shaped the way I viewed the world. It was our class’s trip to Monticello, Gettysburg, Jamestown, and Colonial Williamsburg that I can now point to as a time that changed my life. That was when I truly “got” history and began to understand the power of learning through experience.
Mr. Klopfenstein, or Klop, as we affectionately call him, was my high school journalism teacher. Klop challenged me, and all of us on the school newspaper staff, to run it like it was a professional newspaper. He taught us what we needed to know to be ethical young journalists, but then made us take responsibility for our final product. He encouraged us to try out new ideas, and that gave me a lot of courage in my writing. Eventually, I became brave enough to write about something our school administration was very hesitant to let the student newspaper cover.
Klop supported me, and even came with me as I sat in my principal’s office, trying to convince her that I was right to do so. I succeeded, and we ran the story. Even though it didn’t change the world quite the way I wanted (I had very grandiose dreams as a 17-year-old), it at least got people talking, and the students I wrote about, who had felt like they were being ignored, got to be heard. I don’t know if I would have had the guts to do what I did if I hadn’t had Klop backing me up. And that’s what was so great about him- while he forced me to take responsibility for myself and my work, he also gave me his unfailing support.
So now, at this time of year when we reflect on our blessings, I wanted to take a moment to say thank you, both to the teachers I’ve had and to those who continue to work so hard for students. Now that I work closely with teachers, I better understand the challenges you face, and that makes me respect you even more. And yet, despite the challenges, so many teachers continue to inspire their students to love learning. By exposing them to new ideas, places, and outlooks, encouraging them to take risks (and then accept the consequences), and, above all, supporting them as they grow, you affect their lives in ways you may not even be able to imagine. I would not be who I am without my teachers. So, quite simply, thank you.
Guest Blogger: Nancy Stark - Director of School and Youth Programs
Every year we have the opportunity and the privilege of guiding thousands of students through an exploration of the past and the valuable lessons that such a journey provides. In 2010 alone, we had over 50,000
students, teachers, and chaperones visit from all over the state. We even have some who travel from adjacent states.
We serve students in grades K-12 and beyond. We get a variety of grade levels due to close connections to their curriculum. First and second graders are comparing past and present. Third graders look at community. Fourth graders focus on Indiana history. Fifth graders study colonial history (and the daily life we portray has many similarities). We also get eighth graders studying U.S. history and college students who are education and/or history majors.
We know that to be a valued field trip destination
, it is essential that the activities we offer have a direct connection to the academic standards established by the Indiana Department of Education. With all our hands-on experiences and conversations about the past we cover a variety of standards including social studies, language arts, science, and physical education.
Most (75%) of our school groups come to Conner Prairie on a self-guided school tour. That offering allows school groups access to all our experience areas and allows them to visit at their own pace and in the order they prefer. The rest come for one of our special programs such as Woodland Indians: Art & Culture and Follow the North Star
As we look forward to this new school year, here are a few thoughts running through my mind:
• It is exciting to think that we can impact students’ knowledge of the past and thus their view of the present and future.
• I am always inspired by the expertise and skill of our staff as they engage students in activities and conversations.
• We show students that history and social studies and science can be interesting and fun! How can we convince them it is important knowledge, too?
• It is important that students come to realize that the way of life we present at Conner Prairie (heating/cooking with fire and going outside the house for water) is the present for much of the world. What can we do to promote that awareness?
“Conner Prairie? I haven’t been there since 4th grade!”
I get that line a lot when I tell people I work for Conner Prairie. And honestly, I said the same thing when I started working here in 2008.
As the Manager of School Services, I am more than ecstatic that we have thousands of school-aged children visit us every fall and spring semesters with their schools. Last year, we had over 40,000 students, parents and teachers visit us on field trips! But, as the buses pull away for the day, I think to myself, “Will any of these students be back? Will they bring their family and friends to share what they experienced?” Or will they too, 20 years from now, repeat the aforementioned phrase that I hear from so many adults when I mention Conner Prairie?
My job is to make sure that your child’s teacher is armed with all he or she needs to make their time spent at Conner Prairie the best learning experience possible. I create and find resources that will enable the teacher to use Conner Prairie to teach history, language arts, mathematics and science all at the same time.
But again, I wonder when that student will return here. Conner Prairie is a dynamic place- every day is different, depending on the weather, time of year and even what interpreters we have working in the historic areas. Even for me, there is something new to see each time I walk out onto the grounds.
My advice to parents- if you have a child coming to Conner Prairie on a field trip- sign up to be a chaperone, especially if the last time you were here was when you were your kid’s age. If you cannot do that, come and visit us after the field trip. Have your child show you what they liked the best about their field trip- even if it was the playground! Not only will your family have a great day out, your visit and interest in what your child experienced on their visit will help reinforce what they learned here and in their classroom.
It is hard to believe that we are already half way though 2010, which means we are also half way though the Annual Fund year. I thought this would be a great time to remind our current members and those thinking about becoming members that memberships
at the $100 level and above, meaning Adventurer, Explorer and Extreme Explorer, are eligible for a full tax deduction. If you are a family or grandparent plus member you could simply add $5 to your membership and receive a tax benefit for your family as well as give to Conner Prairie.
One thing that your additional $5 to Conner Prairie goes to is to offset the cost of bringing school children to Conner Prairie. While it typically costs $9 for children aged 12 and under to enjoy our programming and grounds, we offer a discounted rate of $4.50 per child for school groups
. As many of us know, school budgets are getting tighter every year and cutting field trips is a way for schools to save money. For less than $5 a child, we have made the Conner Prairie experience accessible to many more children than would otherwise be able to participate.
According to 2009 numbers there were 358 families with $100+ Annual Fund level memberships. In the remaining half of 2010 I would like to challenge our current Basic and Plus members, as well as those of you who have been contemplating membership, to either upgrade or join as an Adventurer ($100-$249), Explorer ($250-$499) or Extreme Explorer ($500-$999). And for those of you who are already members at one of these levels, I challenge you to increase your membership level or donation amount. Every gift makes a difference and every gifts helps Conner Prairie fulfill our mission of providing educational experiences that inspire curiosity and foster learning.