In addition to its fascinating Gold Rush past, the Sacramento area is rich with an amazing array of state-of-the-art museums and historic sites that offer visitors the chance to explore California’s fine art, history, science, and wildlife treasures all year long. With summer nearing its end and a new school year beginning, many of the 30 members of Sacramento Area Museums (SAM) offer special programs and activities that stimulate problem solving abilities and help add context to what is learned in the classroom.
While virtually every museum and destination offers elements that extend hands-on learning, a sampling of some of the special educational offerings (many of which must be scheduled in advance) includes the following:
- Aerospace Museum of California – offers field trips where students of all ages discover aerospace and aviation artifacts within the exhibit hall and explore vintage aircraft in the four-acre airpark. Students experience the traveling exhibit Take Flight where they investigate the principals of flight in a dynamic interactive exhibit. The Flight Zone flight simulator – a state-of-the-art STEM learning laboratory – allows students (5th grade & above) to learn to fly an aircraft under the instruction of experienced flight instructors. Flight Zone is also open to the public from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekends.
- California Automobile Museum – offers a number of interactive and fun school tour programs designed to appeal to various age groups such as Beep, Honk Vroom! (K-2nd), One the Move! (3rd-4th), Sacramento, California (4th), Zero Emissions (4th-6th), Off to the Races (1st-5th) and Motor Works (5th-8th) plus Guided Tours and different Scavenger Hunts for all age groups.
- California State Railroad Museum – a variety of organized school tour programs are available ranging from an Emigrant Train Program, Horses to Horsepower: Building the Transcontinental Railroad, Eagle Theatre: Discovering the Gold Rush (new offering that includes an entertaining melodrama), Interpretive Handcar Program and a School Group Train Ride.
- Sierra Sacramento Valley Museum of Medical History – is available for docent-led school tours targeted primarily for 4th grade through high school (although 3rd graders with special interest in medicine are also welcome). Thanks to a grant program and Kaiser Permanente, some funding may be available to subsidize bus transportation for Sacramento area public schools. The Museum showcases developments in medicine with a special relationship to our region, from the mid-1800s through today.
- Old Sacramento Schoolhouse Museum – offers 19th century lessons to school children – public, private, home school, youth groups – that last approximately one hour with a schoolmarm reminding children to “mind their manners” and toe-the-line. Lessons are designed primarily for 1st & 2nd grades and 3rd & 4th grades, but can be adapted to older students as well.
- Powerhouse Science Center – recently debuted an exciting and new Design Lab that is an exploratory space where visitors map out and prototype solutions to given challenges. For instance, they might build a hurricane-proof structure or test an earthquake resistant building. Kids of all ages enjoy a hands-on experience and learn through trial and error that there’s no single “right answer” to solve engineering challenges.
- Sacramento History Museum – offers a variety of educational opportunities for school groups K-12. With 10 distinctly different programs including Gold Rush, Head West and California’s Agriculture, they offer group experiences and outreach programs that take place at the Museum or on-site at local schools. Also available for students are hands-on gold panning activities, always-popular Old Sacramento Underground Tours and Gold Fever! walking tours.
- Sutter’s Fort State Historic Park – offers special Hands on History interpretive events that are focused on “learning by doing” each month typically held on the third Saturday. In addition, they have a number of school and educational programs such as the overnight Environmental Living Program (ELP) for 4th graders and the Sutter’s Fort or Bust Tour.
For more information about Sacramento Area Museums and/or to find nearby museums, please visit SacMuseums.org. Stay updated about local museum events and activities by liking them on Facebook at Facebook.com/SacMuseums and following them on Twitter @SacMuseums.