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July 24, 2013

Burke Collections and Educators leave the museum’s walls

BurkeMobile Program Boosted by $100,000 Grant
Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture

Seattle –Third graders at Beacon Hill International School gaze at a model of a filleted salmon held by Claire Dann, a Burke Museum educator. Claire is demonstrating how Northwest Coast Native Americans traditionally prepare and cook salmon. She describes how the salmon tongs in her hand are used to help hold the salmon upright over a fire. This isn’t a typical day in their classroom.

The students are learning about natural resources and the “products” people make from them. Specifically, how Native Americans in Washington State use these resources in weaving and carving. With Burke educators like Claire on-hand to teach lessons, these third graders can see, touch, and learn from Burke collections right in their own classroom.

Claire and the Burke collections are part of BurkeMobile—a Burke Museum educational outreach program. Essentially a museum on wheels, BurkeMobile sends Burke educators and collections far and wide across the state. The program’s goal is to replicate a museum visit experience that also meets classroom curriculum, state, and school district standards.

Since 2009, the BurkeMobile has traveled to 66 different schools in 32 Washington cities, for a total of 131 trips, each time bringing with it collections and lessons on fossils, living traditions from the Pacific Northwest, and ecosystems. No two BurkeMobile experiences are the same; each visit is tailored to fit the needs of the schools and classes being served.

On Wednesday, June 12, 2013, the Washington Women's Foundation awarded BurkeMobile a $100,000 capacity-building grant, which will support the hire of a half-time program coordinator and fund travel to remote, under-served communities across Washington. The funds will extend the reach of the BurkeMobile program from 6,000 students to 12–14,000 students annually by 2016, bringing inspiring natural history and museum experiences directly to children in their classrooms.

Washington Women’s Foundation President, Carla Lewis, noted, “The BurkeMobile program augments the cultural and academic enrichment of chronically underserved students across Washington State.  We are proud to support the work of the Burke Museum.”

In addition to the natural resources and products lesson, teachers can select from collections and lesson plans that cover cultural heritage, arts, and earth and life sciences.

To kick off the discussion about what natural resources and their products are, Claire and the Beacon Hill students talked about what the climate is like in Washington State, and how Western Washington differs from Eastern Washington. They discussed the natural resources of a given environment, and how people use these natural resources, from water to plants and animals.

Claire and the students also talked about how local Native artists use cedar trees to create a wide variety of products – from canoes to bentwood boxes – and what tools they use for carving.  Students answered questions about how a tool with a flat blade can be used to smooth and shave the surface of wood, and how a bent blade can help dig out large chunks of wood when building canoes, bowls, and other products.

As one teacher said about how the BurkeMobile program impacts students, “seeing and touching the artifacts was monumental in making those mental hooks for them to connect to their future learning.” 

Interested in learning more about BurkeMobile, or booking a visit to your class? Contact the Burke Education office at burked@uw.edu or 206.543.5591.

For interviews or high resolution photos, contact burkepr@uw.edu.

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(206) 543-9762; FAX (206) 616-1274

Burke educator Claire Dunn demonstrates how to traditionally prepare salmon to third grade students at Beacon Hill International School, Seattle.
Photo courtesy of the Burke Museum.
Burke educator Claire Dunn demonstrates how to traditionally prepare salmon to third grade students at Beacon Hill International School, Seattle.
Photo courtesy of the Burke Museum.
Keli Doyle (12), inspects Washington mammals and Colby Backman (12), holds a black bear skull from the Burke Museum’s collection during a BurkeMobile visit to Forks Middle School, Forks, Washington.
Photo courtesy of the Burke Museum.