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Career Story: Director Of School Programs At A Museum

Director Of School Programs At A Museum

Job Title: Director Of School Programs At A Museum

Type of Company: The mission of my museum is to increase the public's understanding and appreciation of the diversity of North Carolina and to relate it to the southeast and the world as a whole. We encourage learning for all ages, and knowledge that helps us make wise sustainable use of our natural resources. We want people to understand the need for scientific research, why it is important in their daily lives and how they can become involved.

Education: BS Biology Salem College Winston-Salem, NC •• MS Science Education, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC

Previous Experience: I was a science teacher in three separate locations teaching everything from Kindergarten through 9th grade. I then worked in two different museum positions - teacher education and distance learning (teaching via videoconferencing)

Job Tasks: I coordinate a group of 20 people that are charged with providing science education to all the counties in the state. We offer classes for students and teachers that come to the museum as well as programs for teachers on their school grounds. We offer classes via videoconferencing for schools that cannot get to the museum.

We have a big emphasis on teaching teachers, so sometimes I get to help lead workshops for them. These vary from one day programs, such as "nature journaling" at a local park to nine day trips to Central America or out on a wooden schooner in the Gulf of Maine.

I also get to help with ongoing research and have had the opportunity to do some deep sea exploration with a submersible. My job while out there was to post daily logs about our adventures, and to answer questions that arrived via the web. I also launched an international effort to help reconnect children and nature, so promoting and maintaining that takes so of my time.

I never have a "typical day" but over the course of a week I will help design new exhibits, answer queries from teachers about program opportunities, meet with educators from other organizations to plan cohesive projects, coach/encourage my staff who might have challenges in their programs, evaluate budget proposals, write grants to help fund programs, and feed some of the live animals we have in our collection.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: I always tell people I have the best job in the world, and it is true. Most of my job is the best part - I get to use my creativity to help introduce people to science. I work with an excellent staff and always have something new to do. I get to go outside and do everything from identify snakes to band swans to pour plaster casts of tracks (thing I would want to do in my spare time). I get to have exciting adventures with teachers - teachers that I know will translate their new knowledge back to their classrooms.

The worst part of my job is having to discipline unruly museum visitors. I am the one who calls the school principal when we have to discipline a student. I don't like making tough budget decisions, but am glad that I get the opportunity to decide instead of having someone else decide for me.

Job Tips:
1. The museum world is VERY small. Get involved as soon as you can as a volunteer or intern. It is a good way to gain experience so that when you are ready to apply for a real job you can list it on your resume. Plus it will help you find out if this is what you really want to do.

2. Visit lots of "museums" of all types - science, art, history, children's - visitor centers in parks, zoos, historic homes. Pay attention to what YOU take away from the experience - what attracted you to a particular exhibit or display? Watch what other people do. Think about what you would do differently to reach a different audience (such as how to introduce art to young children, or get people your grandparents age connected on Facebook so they can blog about their trip to the museum)

Additional Thoughts: One of the best things about my career is that I love what I do. I frequently do things that relate directly to my job during my free time. Picking up shells and trying to figure out what they are is as much a part of my vacation as it is when I am leading a teacher workshop. The salaries in the museum field are not very high, but the rewards for being passionate about my work and doing what I enjoy is invaluable. I have a fortune cookie taped to my computer that reads "Doing what you like is freedom, Liking what you do is happiness." I am fortunate that I both get to do what I like and like what I do.

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