Monday, March 1, 2004

Museum Center caters to kids

By Sue Kiesewetter
Enquirer contributor

The Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal is asking for voter approval Tuesday of its first-ever operating levy. The Enquirer recently sat down with Peter DeDominici, 55, director of education and special projects, to talk about programs offered to students.

QUESTION: What kind of education do you offer the community at the Museum Center?

ANSWER: Our basic programs are in-house. They're called learning labs. They are classes designed to complement and add to the exhibits we have here. They are archeological, inquiry-based classes that teach kids to ask questions, to explore, to actually develop their own questions.

We have science and social studies and early childhood classes that we offer. We also have our program on wheels, which is very active. We have three full-time instructors who go around within a 100-mile radius of Cincinnati.

Primarily we have been focused on K-8. What we're looking to do is start expanding to K-12.

Q: How many programs do you have?

A: We have nine science labs, nine social-studies learning labs and four preschool labs. In the programs on wheels we have nine science programs for young children. They last about an hour. For the young children they go about 30 minutes.

All of them are year-round.

Q. How do you schedule a program and what is the cost?

A: Groups have to book two weeks out or more. They can call 287-7021. The learning labs cost about $1.50 per student, $1 for the preschool. The three museums are extra.

Q: How are you funded?

A: Grants and fees. With Cincinnati Public Schools we have a grant administered by the Woodward Trust Foundation.

We're fee-based and because of our budgetary problems we're going for a levy. The levy is for .2 mills, and raises $3.5 million annually. It's renewable after five years. We're hoping it passes because it will make us a lot more solvent. It's our first levy. We had a bond issue in 1986 but that retires in 2009.

Q: What are your future plans?

A: Teacher workshops. We have collaborated this year with the Art Museum. I'm working on developing a collaboration with the Cincinnati Observatory.

We have a teacher advisory board that assists me. What I'm trying to do is go out to the teachers and ask them what works.

Another thing I've developed is the educators' newsletter. They can subscribe to it online. The only way we're going to promote education here is to let people know about it. Teachers are my greatest source of information - both in carrying it out to the community and advising me as to what's going on.

We're also looking at distance learning. Once that's all set, we're going to train the teachers.

We're also exploring the museum school concept. There are some museums that have schools on the grounds. That could be years ahead. Our involvement will be more than the traditional involvement with the school. We want to be active participants in the school.



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