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April 21, 2009

State Money Helps Burke Museum Serve New Regions of Washington State

A growing traveling exhibits program, a new educational outreach program known as Burkemobile, and the region's largest museum traveling teaching collections program are helping the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture serve greater numbers of students and citizens throughout the entire state of Washington. Although located on the UW campus in Seattle, the Burke Museum is a Washington State museum and receives part of its funding from the state.

In 2007, the Washington State legislature awarded the Burke Museum additional funding to bring the museum's expertise and resources to residents throughout the state that do not have opportunities to visit the museum on the University of Washington's Seattle campus. The funding has allowed the museum to expand the traveling exhibits program, launch a new outreach program in which Burke educators bring a museum experience to classrooms across the state, and update and improve the traveling study kits.

The Burke Traveling Exhibits Service is currently touring three exhibits around Washington State: Fasting Moving Water: The Hoh River Story, Kennewick Man on Trial, and The Big One: Earthquakes in the Pacific Northwest. In the past two years, these exhibits have booked at venues in Edmonds, Bellevue, Port Hadlock, Port Angeles, Spokane, Forks, Tacoma, Sequim, Westport, Silverdale, Bainbridge Island, and Kennewick. According to Mark Hand, traveling exhibits coordinator, "The Burke Traveling Exhibits Service offers a unique opportunity for the Burke to reach out to different communities across the state that may not have the means to visit the museum here in Seattle."

Burkemobile, a brand new outreach program, is completing its pilot year this spring. State money towards Burkemobile has allowed the Burke Museum to offer pilot programs free of charge to more than 1,500 elementary and middle school students in Ellensburg, Yakima, Bellingham, Forks, Seattle, and Aberdeen. Burkemobile sends 3-4 Burke educators into classrooms, equipped with real museum objects, to teach lessons about fossils, ecology, and Native cultures. Tim Stetter, Burke environmental educator, summarizes the immense value of this program, "Burkemobile serves a real need throughout the state for quality science and culture education programs that go to the classroom. As schools face increasing barriers to field trips, we are there to bring a museum experience to the students. Just like the students who come to the museum, these kids can't believe they're holding a real fossil or examining a real Monarch butterfly. There's a magic moment waiting for them."

State money has also given the Burke Box program a boost. These traveling teaching collections are the largest resource of its kind in the Pacific Northwest. Burke Boxes are available for check-out to educators across the state and come packed with real specimens and artifacts, background information, and curriculum. More than 60 Burke Boxes representing 43 different subjects (e.g. Fossils, Rocks & Minerals, Coast Salish Canoes, Plants, Plateau Arts) have received updates including new objects, new curriculum, and new packaging to better protect the objects. In addition, 6 online Interactive Burke Boxes, designed for easy Web access in the classroom, are being developed to help educators anywhere provide in-depth lessons in earth and life sciences and cultural studies. In 2008, approximately 60,000 students supplemented their learning with Burke Boxes.

"As the Washington State museum, we take our mission to serve the needs of the entire state very seriously," says Burke Museum Director Dr. Julie Stein. "I am very proud that the Burke can bring high-quality museum exhibits and educational programs to all the corners of the state."

For more information about the Burke Museum Traveling Exhibits Service, the Burkemobile, or Burke Boxes, visit http://www.burkemuseum.org

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