Along with graduation, what I was most looking forward to at the start of my last semester at Bank Street was the supervised fieldwork portion of the museum education program at a cultural institution. In the Museum Education:Childhoodprogram we are required to do one semester of supervised fieldwork in two classrooms, lower and upper elementary, and one semester of supervised fieldwork in a museum, committing to 3 days a week in the placement.
The process of acquiring an internship at one of the cultural institutions was very much identical to the typical job search process. After a review of a comprehensive list of potential internship sites with the museum education program heads, we were asked to submit our top three choices to Cathleen Wiggins, the Director of the Museum Education program, who then made the initial contact with the institutions to see if they had the capacity to host an intern. If the site was able to host an intern, the next step was to send out a cover letter and resume to the institution. Then, we interview for the position, and finally, accept (or decline) an internship offer, if one was extended.
I applied and interviewed for three internship positions and ultimately decided on the nonprofit Cool Culture because I was drawn to their mission of ensuring that diverse families with preschool-aged children have access to arts and culture through their partnerships with 90 New York City museums and cultural institutions. They also provide over 50,000 low-income families with free access to the partner institutions with the Cool Culture pass. I was also very interested in the range of responsibilities I would take on, some of which included the recruitment of early childhood centers to participate in the Adopt-a-Museum program (which encourages greater participation from childhood centers with a nearby museum), assisting at family programs and festivals, family engagement research, and creating a resource for families with children with special needs that highlights Cool Culture’s partner institutions that have accessible programs for young children, aged 2-5.
Out of all my tasks, what I found to be the most enjoyable and rewarding was interacting and speaking with the parents. During one of the Cool Culture professional development sessions held at the Queens Museum for the early childhood educators that we partner with, one of the parent attendees thanked the Queens Museum and Cool Culture staff for providing programs and activities that made her feel welcome and for really caring about her and her family. It was such a powerful statement and helped me to see the incredible impact this small, but mighty organization of hardworking and dedicated women makes on the individuals, families, and institutions that they work with. I’m also fortunate to have played a part in the important and crucial work of removing and/or alleviating the legitimate and perceived barriers that may deter a family from visiting a museum and providing access to museums to all families that want to visit.