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Let's Put Our Heads Together

Train meetingThe Indiana Bicentennial Train will make its debut this fall in northern Indiana. An exhibit on the train will look at pieces of Indiana's 200 years of history while tents outside the train will contain hands-on activities, a first-person interpreter, and a community art space. It will be free to visit, and school groups are encouraged to make a reservation and attend.

While brainstorming activities for the tent, we hit a road block. We knew we wanted to use maps from our library's vast collection but struggled to come up with a way to get young people engaged on site. Our solution was to go straight to the source: collaborate with a school. 

Luckily for us, Decatur Township Schools on the southwest side of Indianapolis were already doing project-based learning with their kids. They present learners (students are called learners in this environment) with real-world problems so they can work on solutions that are relevant and usable. Corporate and organizational partners are used as much as possible. Each learner has a netbook and is encouraged to use Twitter to communicate. (Follow them @ApexNTCommunity.)

I met with a small group of bright 6th and 8th graders yesterday and was impressed with their professionalism. I gave them an overview of the train project, a list of suggested maps from our collection and sent them on their way. We regroup in a few weeks to see what ideas they have come up with. I am so excited to work with this group and can't wait to hear their ideas. 

Often in our "adult" world, we try to create things we think kids would like. Then, we evaluate our ideas after they have been completed. I challenge my colleagues in the museum world and beyond to think of young people first and get their ideas in the brainstorming phase. Kids are smart – let's treat them that way.