This fall Mystic Seaport proudly launched its new education website Mystic Seaport for Educators (MSE). Designed by the Museum and a growing community of educators, the dynamic, interactive site brings the treasures and resources of Mystic Seaport out of the Museum and into classrooms and homes across the country.
During the MSE planning phase, Project Manager Krystal Kornegay Rose and Mystic Seaport staff worked with more than 140 educators, parents, and students in a series of 56 co-creation workshops. Their ideas and feedback helped shape the development of MSE. The project represents a shift from delivering information in a static, one-way manner to a more participatory learning model that fosters shared authority, merging the expertise of Museum staff with the standards-based needs of classroom educators.
The site provides primary source material and other resources for teachers to use through the following features:
- Artifact Articles: Brief information and context about an artifact in the collection. Includes questions for deeper thought and other classroom ideas.
- Living Documents: Documents of the past come to life with sound, transcripts, and informational pop-ups.
- Active Maps: Geospatial representations of objects and manuscripts from the Museum’s collection. Feature includes classroom ideas.
- Resource Sets: Thematic “packages” that include samples of each type of website feature (artifact articles, living manuscripts, maps, lectures, and interviews) all connected by a central theme.
- Lectures and Scholar Interviews: Audio recordings of popular lectures at the Frank C. Munson Institute of American Maritime Studies at Mystic Seaport, as well as MSE teacher-scholar interviews.
Creating MSE Content
The content featured on the website is created through the MSE Resource Creation Professional Development Program, an innovative project that uses the expertise of educators from public and private schools as well as homeschool families. Each summer up to 10 MSE Fellows work with Mystic Seaport staff to create content for the website. While taking part in this development program Fellows are required to: attend orientation programs that include collections tours, oral history workshops, film and video workshops, research workshops and a resource creation workshop; choose what to research from a pre-compiled list of artifacts and documents; research and study items in the Museum’s collection, working closely with curators and other staff, to create MSE website features and an MSE Educator Profile; work with Mystic Seaport staff to create content and features, following detailed instructions for each website feature (staff support is readily available); and attend one Museum field trip. Upon editing and approval by Museum staff, the teacher’s website features and educator profile are published. All MSE content that is created continues to be developed by educators and Museum staff and fresh content will be added regularly.
MSE Fellows are chosen through a competitive application process distributed to school networks in early spring. Recent content creators include Sally Motycka, Stonington High School; Emily Schimelman, Hamden Hall Country Day School; Laurie Hartnett, Mystic Middle School; Kathleen Neumann, The Morgan School; Peter Emanuel, The Williams School; Macy Kleinfelder, The Williams School; Carol Ambrosch, Ledyard Center School; Terry Samokar, Ledyard Center School; Henry Kydd, East Lyme High School; Jason Hine, Mystic Seaport staff; Thea Hudson, Colby College & East Lyme High School (student); Vera Cecelski, Mystic Seaport intern and Williams-Mystic alumni; and Paul Goodwin, professor emeritus of History at the University of Connecticut and Mystic Seaport volunteer.
The next phase of the MSE project is focused on gathering user feedback and making subsequent improvements to the site, as well as promoting the site through monthly professional development programs. Focus group sessions are planned for December, led by the project’s evaluator, Dr. John Fraser of New Knowledge, and versions 2.0 and 3.0 are in the works.