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An Educational Tour of Fun Back-to-School Activities & Key Learning Experiences at Sacramento Museums

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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. Open to the public all year long, many of the 30 members of Sacramento Area Museums offer group tours, hands-on activities and interpretive experiences tailored for local students that help to extend learning and add depth to topics covered in the classroom.

Below is a sampling of some of the school tour offerings leading into and/or during the 2019-2020 school year.     

Aerospace Museum of California

An amazing educational opportunity, NASA’s Hubble Traveling Exhibit “New Views of the Universe” will be in California for the first time at the Aerospace Museum of California from October 1 through December 29, 2019.

The Hubble Traveling Exhibit is a 2,200 square-foot NASA-designed exhibit that immerses visitors in the magnificence and mystery of the Hubble mission and introduces the James Webb Space Telescope. The exhibit features a scale model of the Hubble Space Telescope as well as several “satellite” units that not only provide viewers with a hands-on experience with the same technology that allows Hubble to gaze at distant galaxies, but also feature Hubble’s contributions to the exploration of planets, stars, galaxies and the universe.

Exhibit viewers will learn of the various instruments aboard the telescope and the role that each of them plays in providing exciting new images and discoveries. Observers will also get a glimpse into the various hurdles that Hubble has faced in its career and the role that astronauts have played in repairing and servicing the satellite. The exhibit contains images and data taken by Hubble of planets, galaxies, regions around black holes and many other fascinating cosmic entities that have captivated the minds of scientists for centuries.

For more, visit AerospaceCA.org.

California Automobile Museum

The California Automobile Museum offers a variety of school programs for K-8th graders. Their programs support Common Core Standards and are designed to educate students about the way automobiles – and the science and history behind them – have helped shape our society. Tours are interactive and designed to engage the imagination. Students can even participate in an assembly line exercise as part of the popular Motor Works tour.

For more information, visit CalAutoMuseum.org.

California Museum

The California Museum’s K-12 education programs provide students with in-depth, gallery-based learning experiences highlighting the state’s history, arts and culture of diversity. A choice of seven programs are available for the 2019-20 school year, ranging from self-guided tours to docent-led tours and classroom programs on California’s mission system and Native peoples; journey to U.S. statehood; civil rights, civics and citizenship; and Japanese American incarceration during WWII.

Aligned with State Content Standards, Common Core and CASEL Core SEL Competencies, all programs include lesson plans, activity sheets and free admission for teachers, plus reduced-priced admission for students and chaperones starting at $3.50 each.

For details or to book, visit CaliforniaMuseum.org/field-trips.

California State Railroad Museum

The California State Railroad Museum offers a variety of school Interpretive programs in 2019-2020 that include the following: Building the Transcontinental Railroad from Horses to Horsepower Program for 4th and 5th grades; Interpretive Handcar Program for grades 4th through 6thEmigrant Train Program for 4th and 5th grades; School Train Program for grades K through 12th and the Eagle Theatre Student Melodrama Program (where students have an opportunity to participate in a real melodrama while learning about the history of Sacramento and the Eagle Theatre) for grades 4th and 5th.

Plus, the Museum is offering special Homeschool Activities on October 18. For group tour reservations, please call 916-323-9274 or email csrm@parks.ca.gov.  

Also, school groups can visit the museum free of charge with a reservation from Reserve California at 1-800-444-PARK.

For more information, visit CaliforniaRailroad.museum.

Crocker Art Museum

The Crocker Art Museum offers a number of special events and activities to get kids and teachers ready for the new school year. Each Wednesday morning this August the museum hosts “Weekday Create,” a program for children ages 3-12 and their grownups. Young visitors are invited to take part in activities that build confidence, as they take inspiration from an object in the Crocker’s permanent collection to create their own works of art, using materials that are provided. The morning of August 23 brings “Fourth Friday: Animal Colors,” also for children ages 12 and under and their grownups. “Fourth Friday” engages children with lively performances, creatively social experiences, artmaking, and more, as vibrant and hidden animals in the Crocker’s collection inspire artful play and exploration.

For more information about “Weekday Create” and “Fourth Friday” visit CrockerArt.org.

In addition, “Free Fall,” an opportunity for teachers to get their school year off to an artful start with special Free Fall field trip tours, for teachers and students is now available. All 50-minute self-guided museum tours are free, but educators must make reservations four weeks in advance, as space is limited.

To register for a Free Fall tour, educators may send an email to education@crockerart.org.

Museum of Medical History

All year long, the Sierra Sacramento Valley Medical Society Museum of Medical History provides fascinating group tours for students (typically for 4th and 5th graders), high school and college students, and even some adult and senior groups, too. The museum recently expanded which allows the opportunity to display a larger variety of medical artifacts, including a turn-of-the-century doctor’s office diorama and an exhibit that showcases the nursing profession. The expansion to the museum was made possible thanks to a generous donation in memory of Dr. Albert J. Kahane.

For more information about arranging a group tour, visit SSVMS.org/museum.aspx.

Old Sacramento Schoolhouse Museum

The Old Sacramento Schoolhouse Museum welcomes school groups for old-fashioned lessons that show what school was like before technology – no electronics or running water. Students spend an hour writing, reading, doing arithmetic as well as learning about life in the 1800s. To make a reservation, call 916-939-7206 or send an email to oldsacramentoschoolhouse@gmail.com. 

For general information about the Schoolhouse and special activities, contact info@oldsacschoolhouse.org.

Powerhouse Science Center

Each year, the Powerhouse Science Center provides approximately 1,175 school tours for nearly 50,000 students. A few of the tour group offerings for the 2019-2020 school year include the following: a Challenger Simulated Space Mission for grades 5th through 8th that was designed in cooperation with NASA; a Digging Up The Past experience that is an outdoor simulated archaeological dig for grades 4th through 8th; Hands-On Labs that are fully aligned with Next Generation Science Standards for grades 4th through 8th; and four new outreach programs that explore topics like Green Energy and Engineering Ecosystems for grades 3rd through 5th.

For more information, visit Powerhousesc.org/educators.

Roseville Utility Exploration Center

The Roseville Utility Exploration Center is an environmental learning center offering a variety of educational opportunities in a fun and engaging way. School programming focuses on energy efficiency, watershed protection, water efficiency and waste reduction. Each program is grouped by grade (Kindergarten, 1st – 3rd, 4th – 6th) to offer age-appropriate exploration in our exhibit hall and technology lab. All field trips are correlated to California Content Standards, Next Generation Science Standards and Common Core Standards. Pre and post activities are available online for each class.

In addition, the UEC offers a free Preschool Playgroup on the second Wednesday of the month from September through May. Parents are invited to drop in with their preschool-aged children to enjoy a creative play space and hands-on activities. Families are invited to come have some free fun at Curby’s Waste-a-Palooza from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, August 24. This event is a fun way to learn about trash, recycling, wastewater and recycled water, and was designed to help families think through their choices for back-to-school shopping. Children are invited to enjoy games and prizes, activities, a quiz show and build-it projects before they dive deep into focusing on the school year.

For more, visit Roseville.ca.us/explore.

Sacramento Children’s Museum

The Sacramento Children’s Museum offers a variety of programs and activities that inspire learning all year long. Science Sunday offers hands-on opportunities for children to conduct their own science experiments with activities occurring throughout the day. Tinker Time (recommended for ages 4 to 8) is offered on Wednesdays at 3 p.m. when children can make, build, invent, and solve engineering design challenges.

Also, the Sacramento Children’s Museum offers approximately 115 field trips per year that serve more than 3,000 students annually. The Museum offers group tours for preschool through 2nd grades along with their Van Go Mobile Museum where they visit local classrooms, with topics determined by grade. A few of the preschool program include the Five Senses, Food Lab and Sound Explorers. Their programs for Kindergarteners through 2nd grade include Building & Engineering, Air & Flight and Color Lab. 

For more information, visit SacKids.org.

Sacramento History Museum

History comes to life every year for nearly 15,000 students at the Sacramento History Museum. The year-round history programs and tours adhere to Common Core State Standards and are perfect for all ages from Kindergarten to college. Students immerse themselves in the Gold Rush, the Nisenan culture, the land and sea routes to California, and can even test their gold panning skills. Not only do students get to explore the Old Sacramento Waterfront from the street level but they can also go underground and discover a rich history from below.

For more, visit SacHistoryMuseum.org.

Sutter’s Fort State Historic Park

Sutter’s Fort State Historic Park offers a variety of field trip and educational programs that serve more than 50,000 students every year. The most iconic of the educational programs is the Environmental Living Program (ELP), which for over 40 years has been providing 4th and 5th grade students with a once-in-a-lifetime experience of spending 24-hours at the Fort learning and participating in pioneer skills (such as carpentry and rope-making) as well as cooking and eating their meals on site. Other programs offered are the Environmental Studies Program (a daytime only version of ELP) and Sutter’s Fort or Bust (an innovative and low-cost field trip option for elementary school students grades 4th through 6th). 

For more, visit SuttersFort.org/educational-programs.

For more information about upcoming activities offered by Sacramento area museums, “like” them on Facebook at Facebook.com/SacMuseums, follow them on Instagram and Twitter @SacMuseums or visit the user-friendly website at SacMuseums.org.

*Photo is courtesy of the Aerospace Museum of California

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About the author

Traci Rockefeller Cusack

Traci Rockefeller Cusack

Traci Rockefeller Cusack has 25+ years of media and public relations experience.  Her work experience includes News10 (ABC) as Promotion Manager from 1989-1998 (where she developed and launched “Coats for Kids’ Sake,” a winter coat drive that lasted 20+ years plus coordinated Oprah Winfrey’s first ever visit to Sacramento) and Fleishman-Hillard as Vice President from 1998-2005 (where she led the wildly successful statewide “California Grown” program and also produced the five-minute video that played on the Jumbotron on Opening Day at Pac Bell Park). In 2007, she launched T-Rock Communications and currently handles a wide range of marketing activities for a number of top-notch organizations.

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