February 2020—120 4th grade students in closely packed groups swarm into JANM’s Common Ground exhibition, shaking hands with JANM volunteers, and sharing pencils for origami and drumsticks for taiko. The field trip ends and the group grabs their bundle of backpacks and heads out into the cool spring air to enjoy a communal lunch on JANM’s plaza, and the Education staff heads into the back offices, another successful field trip.
Little did the seasoned museum educators know that in a matter of days the school visits program would come to a complete halt. Swiftly, sending regretful emails postponing, and later canceling, over 100 reserved Spring semester visits. Teachers sent back kind replies, understanding the predicament as they themselves adjusted to unprecedented distance learning circumstances.
Fast forward to six months later—after hours of strategizing, experimenting, adapting (and pivoting!), the JANM Education Unit is thrilled to announce our new virtual visits program. In the spirit of the beloved on-site school visits program, the new tour types reflect informal and object-based learning which animates the museum’s mission—promoting understanding and appreciation of America’s ethnic and cultural diversity by sharing the Japanese American experience.
Virtual visits use video conferencing technology to engage visitors and students in conversation and discussion surrounding JANM’s collection. Built on the understanding that it is important to learn outside of a formal classroom setting, virtual visits enhance distance learning curriculum with innovative and interactive design. These new tour types offer a great escape for a distance learning classroom, and a way to make sure that the important lessons of history are not forgotten.
1st–12th grade students will enjoy “tours” full of fun, engaging, and artistic activities that broaden their understanding of culture. College, adult, and senior groups will have the opportunity to go on a virtual tour of the highlights of JANM’s on-going exhibition, Common Ground: The Heart of Community, led by JANM’s incredible cohort of volunteer docents and facilitators. Groups of all ages can select to accompany a visit with a first-person live testimonial and Q&A with a JANM volunteer who has first-person experience of America’s concentration camps. These precious stories are vital to bringing the curriculum alive for your students.
It’s important to continue telling stories about the Japanese American experience now more than ever. Teachers tell us the reasons why they bring JANM’s curriculum to their students include: bringing mindfulness to their virtual classrooms, learning to respect other cultures, gaining connection making skills, combating anti-Asian racism and hate that is prevalent in today’s media, and helping students take pride in their own culture by learning and appreciating another. As one teacher reported, “My students were engaged and quite interested in the presentation. They really enjoyed it and learned a lot.”
With a virtual platform crafted to reach students, and engage sensory perception, critical thinking skills, and importantly make human connections in an era of social distancing, students experience a memorable and lasting museum “visit.”
The JANM Education Unit offers school or group virtual visits Monday–Friday, running 45–65 minutes. Fees are waived for Title I schools thanks to generous support by Bid for Education donors. To learn more or make a reservation go to janm.org/groupvisits or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Programs like these are made possible by the generous support of JANM’s members and donors. Become a member (janm.org/membership) or consider making a tax-deductible gift so that we can continue to develop more educational resources: janm.org/donatenow. Your support makes a difference. Thank you!