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Career Story: Museum Education Coordinator

Museum Education Coordinator

Job Title: Museum Education Coordinator

Type of Company: I work for a museum of natural history, whose mission is to foster exploration and appreciation of the natural environment and human cultures through research, teaching and community outreach.

Education: BA, Biology, Kenyon College •• Ph.D., Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology, University of Colorado-Boulder •• professional certificate, Museum and Field Studies, University of Colorado-Boulder

Previous Experience: I conducted scientific research in university settings for a number of years. I took a few years off to spend time with my children. I then returned to school to focus on informal science education, which is, basically, any type of education that occurs outside of school.

Job Tasks: My office is responsible for all museum programs that involve kindergarten through 12th grade students. We create field trip guided tours and hands-on workshops that focus on paleontology, early human populations, local wildlife, and other topics related to special exhibits that come through the museum. To cite an example, our fossil tours focus on showing that "fossils are evidence of past life", so we use our museum gallery to show students the wide variety of past life, how we learn about past environments, and what paleontologists do. We have a hands-on workshop where the students excavate their own fossil. We train volunteers to lead our programs; they have to learn techniques for informal education, as well as gain expertise in the subjects. We also provide training for teachers so that they can teach paleontology better in their classrooms.

I sit on every exhibit development team at the museum to be sure that the education 'voice' is included. Our most recent exhibit is on Navajo Weaving, so it was my job to be sure that the exhibit had things of interest and relevance to K-12 students. We plan and present after-school programs, Saturday Family Discovery Days, and summer camp programs for students. Topics are flexible and depend on what exhibits we have and the interests of our volunteers who teach the classes. We have a great program called "Girls At the Museum Exploring Science" that brings 4th and 5th grade girls to the museum for six weeks to meet female scientists and see firsthand what they do.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of my job is its variety. I get to combine my science knowledge and my love of arts and crafts in creative, innovative programs. I think it's incredibly important that people have an understanding of science. Even if they will never become scientists, they need to understand what science does, and that being scientifically literate is crucial to being a participating member of our society. Coming up with ways to make this fun and appealing is a positive challenge.

The worst part is that there is not enough time, money or people to get everything done. We are a non-profit organization with a limited budget.

Job Tips:
1. The best way to get a job in a museum is to volunteer in museums. We are very dependent upon our volunteers and feel it is our duty to train them well and provide resources to help them further their career interests.

2. Be willing to do whatever you have to do. The variety of this job can have some downsides since it includes tasks such as cleaning up after 75 kids.

3. Be a 'life-long' learner. Always take advantage of an opportunity to explore and learn new things. Foster your curiosity and creativity.

4. A course of study that includes classes on education, science and culture will take you far.

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