Michigan Historical Museum

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Elementary school students eat their lunch on the lawn outside of the Michigan Historical Museum. The museum has been around for more than 100 years.

Located at 702 West Kalamazoo Street is The Michigan Historical Museum, a state-owned museum whose mission is to tell the story of Michigan’s past from before the 1900s all the way through the late 20th century.

Education Manager Maria Leiby said that the museum has a unique balance between state funding and non-profit funding.

“State support these days doesn’t go much further than the building and most staff salaries,” Leiby said. “For educational programming and exhibits we rely on the Michigan History Foundation, a non-profit organization whose purpose is to help support our programs. They raise money and seek grants on our behalf in collaboration with the staff.”

Leiby said that the museum offers all sorts of exhibits and programs for the public to take advantage of.

“We are open seven days a week, and every Saturday there is something going on,” Leiby said. “On Saturdays there might be a small program, lecture or maybe a book signing. Sometimes it’s something presented by our docents in the galleries where it’s kind of hands on and family friendly. We also offer programs for students, school groups and homeschoolers as well as some teacher workshops.”

Through the help of the Michigan History Foundation, the museum is getting ready to begin a program called the Governor’s Decision Room. Leiby said that this program would bring in students who are studying events in Michigan history and ask them to role-play.

“They’ll come in and play roles of people involved at that time like, the governor, press, legislators and advisors and they will have to look at historical documents, think about possible courses of action and make a decision by the end of the afternoon,” Leiby said. “We think it will not only give students a much better insight into a piece of Michigan’s history, but it will also give them a much better understanding of how our government works.”

Laura Fox, a fourth grade teacher at Mary McGuire Elementary School said that she brings her students to the museum because it goes perfectly with what they are learning in school.

“I have done this tour for 20 years,” Fox said. “I have them bring their memories of the museum back home to do a writing and discussion when we return.”

The museum is accepting applications for the BIG History Lesson. Laurie Perkins, coordinator for the BIG History Lesson, said that they look to have third, fourth and fifth grade teachers come and stay for an entire week with their students. Perkins said that the teachers are in charge of coming up with a lesson plan that uses the museum as a learning lab.

Perkins said she thinks the program is great for students.

“The third and fourth graders are the perfect age because they’re out of that young stage where now they’re starting to put things together, but not quite to the brooding teenager phase where they’re too cool to learn. You can just throw a question out and nine hands go up. They’re sponges taking everything in.”

 

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The BIG History Lesson

Miniature soldiers reenact a battle to capture Petersburg during the American Civil War. Leiby said the museum hosts more than 30,000 square miles of exhibits.

 

Students from Pine River Elementary School peek into an interactive exhibit about the mining era in Michigan. There are all sorts of interactive exhibits for the public to enjoy in a hands-on way.

 

A new Girl Scouts exhibit can be found on the first floor of the museum. Leiby said the exhibit came about because the Girl Scouts came and asked if the museum would be interested in creating an exhibit together.

 

Students listen to Jim Booth, a docent for the museum, as he exhibits what life was like during the mining era. “In a classroom, it’s typically a question and answer sort of structure,” Booth said. “I try and involve the kids in everything I’m explaining, so that they can really begin to understand all of the history I’m teaching them.”

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