Thursday, October 9, 2014

MAC Museums Offer Education for Sustainability

As a student working on my MS in Environmental Education and Interpretation, I recently took a course on Education for Sustainability (EfS). The Cloud Institute for Sustainability Education offers a framework of EfS Standards & Performance Indicators, and I was pleased to discover that the Museums at the Crossroads consortium is an excellent example of EfS in our community!

Several years ago all of the museums in Champaign County, IL, banded together to form the Museums at the Crossroads (MAC) consortium in an effort to more effectively advertise community recreational and educational opportunities. Together, eleven museums (including the Anita Purves Nature Center where I work) celebrate cultural diversity and facilitate “collaboration between consortium members and related cultural institutions.” These museums also work together to create new joint programs and events for the public. They cross-promote for each other and encourage community-wide exploration of museums as hands-on learning institutions for natural and cultural education.

The criteria for sustainability from the Cloud Institute’s framework that are demonstrated by MAC include having Multiple Perspectives, Cultural Preservation, and a Strong Sense of Place. Visiting different types of museums encourages looking at the world from different vantage points and varying cultural perspectives. This is vital to working effectively with diverse stakeholders and making fair and consensual decisions. It promotes the appreciation of diversity and the expansion of perspectives from local to global. Experiencing such a wide array of museums--specializing from airplanes to art to astronomy--in one county nurtures a strong sense of community, sense of place, and lifelong learning. Visitors “recognize and value the interrelationships between the social, economic, ecological, and architectural history of that place and contribute to its continuous health”. Regular visitors to museums engage in hands-on, minds-on experiences that improve critical and consequential thinking. Often, visits are by families and by people of a wide array of ages, making museum exploration a multigenerational experience. Diverse exhibits and programs offer multiple entry points and perspectives, and they promote global-mindedness and empathy.

Who would have known that our eleven museums--when working together--can form such a strong network for Education for Sustainability!

Savannah Donovan
Environmental Public Program Coordinator
Urbana Park District