Woods Online student tackles educational challenge

February 18th, 2014 | Betsy Wells

Tabytha Seward Woods Online Degree Student
Tabytha Seward, Woods Online Student

Through state standards and classroom materials, a Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College (SWMC) intern recently helped the Terre Haute Children’s Museum translate the educational value that they provide to children for educators in the area. To help the children’s museum in their dedication to providing a place for elementary students to learn, Woods Online elementary education major, Tabytha Seward, created resources for local educators planning field trips during her recent internship at the museum.

During her internship, Seward of Brazil, Ind., connected Indiana and Illinois educational standards to the existing museum exhibits, networked and surveyed the local homeschool community, helped the museum prepare for educational events and researched ideas for future events and programs. The majority of her work was focused on creating connections between the classroom and the museum for educators’ use.

“The educational standards are very important when educators are considering field trips,” states Seward. “Today’s teachers are limited on the number of field trips they can take. They must also justify their choice of field trips and connect field trips to academic standards. Having the standards listed for the exhibits creates a more polished profile for the museum and demonstrates that the museum is dedicated to helping make classroom connections for educators.”

Seward’s site supervisor at the museum, Rachael Nickel, director of education and exhibits, said that the museum was at the point where they needed to update the academic standards information on the website and in printed materials.

“This is important so that teachers can see the educational relevance of a field trip at the museum. With field trip budgets being cut, it's important for us to display why we are a good field trip destination,” states Nickel. “The museum has seen a very slight decrease in field trips over the last couple years, and we're a little apprehensive about what this year's ‘field trip season’ will bring. Again, we must make ourselves look as appealing as possible to teachers seeking a standards-linked, educationally-rich learning experience for their students.”

In addition to researching state standards and attaching them to museum exhibits, Seward created a “Scientific Thinking” flyer for educators to use on field trips to help students focus on specific tasks while at the museum and to help students make connections between museum learning and classroom activities. She also designed a program reference guide with appropriate grade levels for each museum exhibit and program.

“We have a small staff, so anytime we have as skilled and eager an intern as Tabytha, it can be immensely helpful,” states Nickel.

Not only was the experience beneficial to the teachers and their students, but it is also a benefit to Seward in furthering her career goals.

“When people hear your major is education, most of the time people make the assumption that you will take the linear career path to teach in a classroom. However, it has always been my desire to develop curriculum, create lesson plans and learning activities for children,” states Seward. “My time at the children’s museum has confirmed my desire to continue down the alternative career path for an education major to pursue educational opportunities outside of the classroom. My goal is to work in a children’s museum or possibly a library.”

Internships are highly recommended to all SMWC students whether online or on campus. While it is not a typical component of most online programs, SMWC has long provided adult learners with internship experiences.

“Although most online students have work experience, it may not be in their desired career field," said Susan Gresham, director of career development. "Internships can serve as a bridge experience to position them for success in a new career direction or advancement in their current job. Online students want and need to expand their network and polish their professional image.”

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