St. Albans Museum’s Executive Director, Alex Lehning, MA, shares how funds from a 2018 RiseVT mini grant were used to facilitate heritage-specific cultural education through an engaging new exhibit and craft station recently added there:

During our 2018 season, the St. Albans Museum(SAM) set an attendance record, serving over 3,500 guests (including visitors as well as area residents, students, and families). This year, SAM developed a number of new innovative educational opportunities. “Lake Lessons” is a collaborative, place-based STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) workshop series, focusing on the maritime heritage and ecology of Lake Champlain. As part of a pilot program over the course of six days we hosted 500 students and educators at St. Albans Bay Park and Georgia Beach Park for enrichment activities and learning games. SAM also curated a Student Art Show, with an open house exhibition during the Maple Festival. Funding from RiseVT allowed the Museum to establish elements of these programs within our historic building, as part of other exhibitions. Currently, we have implemented two youth learning spaces:

Farming Franklin County
Our newest exhibit highlights the agricultural heritage of our community, including maple, dairy, farm life, and related businesses and organizations. We purchased two square kids’ tables and six brightly colored chairs, which anchor a designated area in this room. Featured activities include coloring pages, a variety of early childhood and elementary-level books, a historically-themed word search, puzzles, and a Museum postcard which young visitors can place in an antique mailbox for mailing to a relative. In addition, we constructed a 3’ tall “Kerplunk”-style game where participants must remove large pieces of “straw” while preventing any “eggs” from falling down into the basket.

Women’s Realm (Women’s History Exhibit)
Folding fans were popular as both personal fashion accessories and advertising giveaways during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. We designed a crafting area where young visitors can draw, color, and accessorize (with feathers and beads) their own fan to take home.

Next Steps
SAM plans to utilize the remaining funds over Winter 2019 to construct a third interactive youth learning area in the Railroad Room. We are also in the process of authoring two new pamphlets designed to promote healthy choices and active play – a historic walking tour of Taylor Park and a Museum scavenger hunt – both designed specifically for children.

The St. Albans Museum is a non-profit community museum, operated by one full-time staff member, a Board of Trustees, and approximately 35 volunteers. Our mission is to preserve and share the history of St. Albans, Franklin County, and northwestern Vermont through exhibitions, educational programming, arts/music performances, and special events. We are a participant in the national “Let’s Go: Museums & Gardens” Initiative, which promotes active play through ‘interactive exhibits, outdoor spaces, and programs that encourage families to make healthy choices and increase physical activity.