Summer at the Museum
An Education Intern's Story
Wednesday, August 23, 2017 by
I thought I knew myself before the Museum. I thought I was a person who was incapable of trying new things, who did not consider anything that wasn’t in her area of study. An individual that believed that receiving a stipend for a period of three months wasn’t worth it. Deep down I knew my motivation for continuing this internship came from the person I was becoming.
My favorite part of this museum was watching myself grow and learn.”
Not statistics, American history, or any of the subjects we are receptacles to. I was attracted to the professionalism, networks, and awareness I was gaining without intention. Whether you begin as a full/part-time employee or simply an intern, you generally hope to gain abilities that are easily quantifiable in any work environment. In my case, I was presented to a community I was not familiar with, a community that welcomed everyone. Though it seemed normal since I grew up learning to treat everyone with respect, the Museum of the City of New York allowed me to enhance my three forms of communication: verbal, non-verbal, and visual. Now, let’s not forget that this is a museum of the city I was born and raised in, aside from all the intellectual aspects of my experience, of course I gained more insight about the one and only, Big Apple!
Asked to a group of students before their gallery experience: “Would anyone like to share something we learn at a museum?”. Your most common answers are history, buildings, lights, and cars, which by far, are all correct. But for those who have entered a museum once in their life, many seemed uninterested and some even say it’s boring! Eventually, children become engaged and impressed at how their educators allow them to apply their knowledge through follow-up art activities giving them hands-on access.
I’ve had the chance to witness a child go from having boredom and frustration to being an active participant in group discussions.”
I joined the museum community at first only because I was told to. Like I said before, I furthered myself in this journey due to its ability to motivate me. I had doors open to mentors, references, and drive for self-improvement. It wasn’t about past or present, history or personal background. I was developing skills to become an educator. I held the responsibility of planning, instruction, and classroom management. If the kids weren’t ready to cooperate, this decreased their engagement entirely. As much as I had to stand and be an educator, I became a learner myself. The most difficult hurdle I had to jump was meeting kids at their current level. That meant, simplifying the lesson enough to where the child has room to ask questions and explore the topic. Giving examples, breaking it down, using visuals, and giving students the room to practice was a part of my teaching throughout the day. Imagine defining colonial revival without using terms related to global history!
As one achievement gap narrowed, another opened wide. Aside from personal growth, I was able to develop professionalism. Code switching, communicating with my supervisor, arriving on time, reflecting and setting personal goals are just a few of the skills I was able to reinforce throughout my duration of this internship. Sometimes, the simplest tasks reflect the most on your work ethic. Before this, I was an undergraduate student attending a four-year college in the Bronx. With a major in journalism and minor in public relations, my main goal was to intern and volunteer in organizations relevant to my field. Unfortunately, during that time period I was financially unable to further my education in December of 2016, so there was no other choice but to take some time off. During this time I sought guidance to keep me on my toes while I worked 35+ hours to clear off my dues and enroll in school by fall 2017. Luckily, I came across a community center that introduced me to Laura and Ilk, my supervisors. Five years ago, if you told me I’d be an intern at a museum, my response would be, “Okay, cool… wait, but museums are quiet… that doesn’t suit me” and disregard your commentary. But little did I know museums are what you make it, and in my opinion, some are underestimated!
Here’s a fun fact that I learned!
The Museum of the City of New York holds an artifact in its Port City 1609-1898 gallery, as part of New York at Its Core, that reflects advancement in the industrial industry. Did you know that in 1876 Thomas Edison decided to use NYC as his base for publicizing and financing his new inventions? Here he publicized and financed his invention, the electrical stencil pen. This object was used as a stencil for copying documents, which was later repurposed by a man named Samuel O’Reilly. O’Reilly decided to remake Edison’s object into an electrical tattoo machine. From the start, body art has improved and become so common. To know Edison’s original invention was the foundation to a worldwide trend this century, is interesting enough! I just hope someone reinvents it to be less painful!
The Museum of the City of New York is proud to educate the public and even prouder to be able to give back to the New York City community, notably with its Internship in Museum Education Program. This one-of-a-kind program provides an opportunity for underrepresented young adults from underserved communities to reconnect to education and career paths. Since 2012, the summer internship program at the Museum has introduced young adults to the study and practice of museum education. This program has provided participants with valuable professional experience working in a museum that focuses on their city’s history. The program is for young adults ages 18–24, at a turning point in their lives, who are interested in getting back to school or in career training and helps them to develop practical professional and academic skills that may be applied across a range of endeavors. The interns teach summer field trips, family programs, and assist in a literacy tutoring program for elementary students. Together, they lead thousands of children through education activities all summer long.
The Museum of the City of New York gratefully acknowledges The Thompson Family Foundation, The Pinkerton Foundation, The Brenner Family Foundation, and The Rochlis Family Foundation for their support of our summer internship program.