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That Summer Museum Trip Could Help Your Child's Grades

Track down your district's curriculum and plan a few activities around it.

I met the most interesting strangers on an Amtrak train to Baltimore last weekend. Since it was a holiday and the train was crowded, the only available seat was at the end of the car where there were four seats facing each other.

I sat with a mom, her son, and his friend, who are possibly the coolest seventh-graders in Maine.  They were off to Manhattan to see the sights and, in no time, we were chatting like we had known each other forever. 

I shared all my NYC survival apps (my current faves are The Scoop and the Subway Map) and they told me about school, their aspirations to go to Julliard, and off-beat places to visit in Maine, like the 5th Maine Regiment (Civil War) Museum at Peaks Island. Since they seemed to like history, I suggested they visit the Tenement Museum on the Lower East Side to learn about immigration and the Industrial Revolution. 

As we were chatting away, I remembered an article I wrote at the end of last summer suggesting that parents look at the curriculum for the upcoming school year and plan excursions to preview the curriculum. A reader asked me to write about this again at the end of the school year, and this encounter served as my reminder to do it, so here you go.

The curriculum for each grade is usually somewhere on the school district’s website. You may have to dig a bit, but it’s there. For example, in the West Hartford Public School’s website, the Curriculum can be found under “offices” on the homepage. Once you find it, click on the grade your child will be in next year, and you will find information on the units of study and objectives for each subject. Once you have this information, you can plan activities to build a knowledge base for your child.

Here are some examples to get you started:

  • Grade 1 Health — Making Healthy Eating Choices: Check out www.foodplay.com to find a show near you. Don’t forget to go into the section on Fun Nutrition Resources for games and downloads.
  • Grade 2 Art History — Japanese Culture, Paul Klee, Claude Monet: Monet’s Garden, Exhibit at the New York Botanical Gardens, May 19-October 21.
  • Grade 4 Science — Earth in the Solar System: The Children’s Museum of Connecticut Planetarium.
  • Grade 5 Social Studies — Colonization, The Constitution, and Causes and Effects of the Revolutionary War: Road trip to the Philadelphia Constitution Museum!
  • Grade 9 Reading — Romeo and Juliet: Shakespeare on the Sound’s Romeo and Juliet. June 26-July 29 (Greenwich and Rowayton).  www.shakespeareonthesound.org

Have a fun and educational summer, and let me know what activities you come up with to prepare your child for the coming school year. And, to those boys I met on the train; remember how to get to Carnegie Hall … practice, practice, practice!

Betty-Lou Griffin June 02, 2012 at 06:10 PM
I think many parents plan educational outings, but this is a wonderful tip to check the upcoming curriculum to increase the effectiveness!
Kendall Svengalis June 03, 2012 at 02:02 PM
Great idea. More parents should supplement their childrens' education with field trips and museum trips, concerts, etc. Most school curricula are woefully deficient in promoting broader cultural literacy. One great resource: the "What Your First Grader [etc.] Should Know" series from the Core Knowledge Foundation. These graded books, which cover grades kindergarten through seventh grade provide essential knowledge in history, art, music, science, literature, math, and other subjects that your schools may either miss or address insufficiently. They are premised on the idea that although most children learn the mechanics of reading, they often lack the broader context necessary for deeper understanding of complex texts as they get older. I read these to my two children and we discussed the content and stories. For example we read about opera, studied the story of one particular opera (Wagner's "Die Meistersinger"), then we took them to see it in New York City. Now, you can do that locally, at one of the simulcasts around the state. These books should be essential additions to any summer reading list and a springboard to further study and reading.
Kendall Svengalis June 03, 2012 at 03:01 PM
Another thought for your young people, particularly if they have Swedish or Scandinavian heritage. The American Union of Swedish Singers, a national Swedish-American singing organization, is holding its quadrennial convention in New Haven this month, The convention will culminate with a public Grand Concert at Lyman Auditorium at Southern Connecticut State University on Friday, June 29 at 7:30 pm. (see the Patch for details). Swedish choral music is incredibly beautiful and emotionally moving, often expressing love of nature, as evidenced by this performance of "Kung Liljekonvalje" ("King Lily of the Valley") by the Lund, Sweden Student Chorus on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Z31YUUvu9Y The program is half in Swedish and half in English, with translations provided for the Swedish numbers. Your children, and their parents or grandparents, will come away enriched with the music of their heritage. And you don't have to be Swedish to appreciate this marvelous choral literature. Many of our singers aren't even Swedish. They simply got hooked by the music.
Bernadette Bolton June 03, 2012 at 04:21 PM
Great advice, Susan! It's always wonderful to supplement your children's education and remember that learning happens everywhere -- not just at school.
Helen Malinka June 04, 2012 at 12:29 PM
Chances are your local library provides passes for free or discounted admission to certain museums and attractions. Berlin residents can go to: http://www.berlinpeck.lib.ct.us/?page_id=105 for further information!

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