Internship: Children's Museum of Walla Walla Docent
I have had a positive experience working with Mike Dedman for the Children's Museum of Walla Walla . The more I research the CMWW and learn about the months of preparation, coordination, and funding that contributed to this enormous project, my gratitude and respect increases for the many planners and organ iz ers apart of the museum. The museum is intended to open at the end of May once a location is secured. It will be an extensive, interactive museum for children. Toddlers to preteens from a variety of cultural backgrounds will find interesting and educational activities that stimulate hands-on learning and teach children about their local community and surrounding land.
As a volunteer intern within the preparation process, I have gained a significant amount of knowledge about the steps necessary to execute a major project such as the CMWW. Grants are required to provide funding, along with a significant amount of community donations. The most exciting community donation for the CMWW is an authentic, $20,000 fire truck and fireman pole which will be the center display for the Civil Service Exhibit in the museum. The rest of the materials needed for the museum must be broken down into specific expenditures and planned out in detail. I have had the opportunity to follow the spending and budgeting process of the museum in order to learn how a budget for such a project is created, not only for the initial expenses, but the expected maintenance and anticipated annual earnings.
As a student, I always try to apply the knowledge that I learn in school to my activities outside of the classroom. One of my classes here at Whitman is central iz ed around the concept of race, ethnicity, and the interaction with the “other” (which means anyone who is unknown and different from oneself and from whom one usually associates). Taking my knowledge from class discussions and readings, I have questioned how the Walla Walla Children's Museum will meet the needs of the Walla Walla community as a whole: children from the many ethnic backgrounds, learning levels and types, age levels, and income status. I have to say that I am absolutely impressed by the efforts made to incorporate all children into activities regardless of these community differences. A few of the specific examples of these efforts are the Spanish/English karaoke set, the foreign language education programs taught at the museum, the “Wee Walla Walla Restaurant” (which will open up as a Mexican restaurant and change to incorporate many types of restaurants from different origins), and the variety of activities for different age groups, such as the toddler room and the older children's software programs. I believe that the success of the museum in its appeal to all children is due to the variety of community members participating in the museum. Volunteers from local schools, parenting groups, church youth groups, banks, the Whitman Mission, and more voice their ideas and offer their time to ensure that the museum will benefit the greatest number of children.
The highlight of my internship so far has been my work upon a specific project that Mike has asked me to create for the museum. This project resembles a pocket passport for the children to use throughout their visit to the museum and be able to take home with them as a personal achievement and reminder of their experience. The passport contains separate pages for each exhibit in this museum, with simple questions about the exhibit to which they will fill in the answers and obtain a stamp from each exhibit marking their completion of the activity and correct answers to the questions. Not only will the passport encourage the kids to thoughtfully participate in the exhibits, and provide a finished product to take home, but it will help direct the children and families in a route around the museum to ensure that nothing is missed.
The passport project has consumed the majority of my time spent towards the internship. When first assigned, I recogn iz ed that it would be a large task, yet I never real iz ed at the time how time consuming even a small assignment like the passport can be. The most difficult part about the passport was communicating with every person in charge of each exhibit and acquiring the information needed to make the passport. I was asked to write a small description of each exhibit in addition to three questions which museum goers will complete about the exhibit. I greatly enjoyed inventing creative and contemplative questions for the exhibits, yet before I could do my personal work, I had to understand the exhibits in detail. This required contacting everyone who headed the exhibits and asking them questions. Although many people were excited to speak to me and willing to help, many people were unsure about the content of the exhibits and could not give me definite answers. The main reason for their uncertainty was the museum's lack of a secure location. Without an assured location, the people in charge of the exhibits were unsure how much space was going to be available for their exhibit. This assignment helped me recogn iz e why the museum has had trouble meeting their intended opening dates. It is wonderful to have so many volunteers and community interests represented in this organ iz ation, but it also makes progress slow going. Despite the complications, ambiguous responses, and time commitment, I was honored to get the chance to speak with all of the people contributing to the museum, and I was ultimately successful in my task of writing descriptions and questions. Now that I have completed my passport assignment, I can say that it was a positive experience taking on a personal task for the museum and I am quite proud of my work.
Overall, I have greatly enjoyed my participation as an intern, although my greatest disappointment was my inability to work as a docent. When I applied for this position I was eager to be a docent and work with children, yet without the museum open, it was impossible for me to fulfill this position. This is of no fault of the museum or anyone else because the museum simply is not ready for a docent yet, but I was really hoping to have the chance to work with kids doing activities, art, and teach them about unique aspects of Walla Walla . Because my specific job as a docent was not needed, I did not really have a specific assignment until Mike asked me to work on the passport project. Before Mike assigned me the passport, I had gained quite a bit educationally as an intern, but I had given little back to the museum group. Since I dove into the passport project, my internship has felt much more fulfilling because I have produced something worthwhile for the museum. They were all very excited for my help and for the passport.
I also regret that I have class during the time that the Board of Directors meets every week, so I am not able to sit in on any meetings. This keeps me out of the primary discussion about the museum, but Mike Dedman has been doing a good job of keeping me informed of the progress. Mike was a very helpful supervisor, very willing to answer questions if I needed them.
My wish to have been a docent has no relevance for future interns because the museum will (hopefully) open by next semester, and a docent intern will be needed. Regretfully, I can offer no information on the actual “docent” position, from my work on the passport and general help to the museum, I have gained a few insights that might be helpful for anyone interning for the museum in the future. First, I found it very rewarding to have a personal task on which I could focus my time and produce a finished product. Having my own project allowed me to work at my own pace, meet many people involved with the museum, and become familiar with museum's preparation processes. Rather than doing random tasks for people, the passport project let me show all of my efforts in a real product which will be used by the museum. I enjoyed knowing exactly how I contributed to the museum. Secondly, everything became much smoother once I took my own initiative gaining the materials and information that I needed to work on my passport project. I was challenged to take the lead and gather the information I needed by contacting the people directly rather than relying on middlemen to contact and obtain information for me. After I began to personally contact everyone from whom I needed information, the process moved much quicker, and I was able to ask all of my own questions. In addition, one of my favorite parts of my internship was conversing with the many people involved; their excitement was contagious, and I learned so much from personal conversations with them.
I believe that I have met most of all of my goals for the semester. These were my goals and objectives midway through the semester:
1. become more involved with the people and physical activities taking place in the museum and less behind-the-scenes research work.
2. I hope to be able to work with students and staff to come up with creative educational ideas once the museum opens.
3. I would like to work with Mike Dedman to learn more about the museum's budget and, hopefully, be able to work out an expense report myself.
4. Complete and produce the passports before the museum opens in April.
5. Stay in communication with Mike and make further connections with the rest of the museum staff.
6. Learn the specifics of the News Release and complete one for the museum.
7. Have fun and work hard!
I have successfully met almost all of my goals and objectives for the semester. First, I discovered that I could participate in more involved museum activities by talking to people and figuring out where my help was needed and letting them know what I needed from them. Once I began my passport project, I felt as though my work bettered the museum rather than just learning about it. Second, I found ways to apply my creative energy and ideas for the museum through my passport project. I remember one time specifically, when I sat on the phone with Cathy Mebes for a good half hour inventing interesting and creative questions to ask on the passport. Third, I learned much more about the way the budget's work, especially after Mike obtained a grant specifically for my passport. Fourth, I completed as much of the passport as was expected of me. The only thing that I could not do was graphically assemble it as a finished product. This was because they hoped to apply digital pictures of kids playing on each of the exhibits, which they would not obtain until the museum opened. I created the template and wrote the content for the passport. Fifth, my contact with Mike and further communication with the rest of the staff was, I believe, my greatest success. I spoke to over ten different people besides Mike and learned much from my conversations. Sixth, I did not complete a news release for the Forest Service because Mike did not follow up on any further information on it, and he only mentioned it in passing the first day I met him. I think that a news release was just an idea that he had for me to do before he assigned me the passport project. Finally, I greatly enjoyed my internship experience, and I definitely worked very hard. It was a rewarding and valuable learning process, and I am proud to contribute my work for the benefit of the museum.
I would recommend this internship position in the future. My main problems with my internship was due to the fact that the museum is not yet opened, but once the museum opens, there will be plenty of opportunities for interns to work with children as a docent, and any volunteers will greatly be needed. I am incredibly impressed by the museum, and I am confident that it will be a beneficial aspect of Walla Walla . I believe that Whitman College , as a central institution in Walla Walla , should support this project openly, and I give my individual efforts wholeheartedly.