Long Island Museum announces new virtual field trip program, ‘Vehicles for Change’

Long Island Museum announces new virtual field trip program, ‘Vehicles for Change’

Fifth and sixth graders learning about social justice at Pulaski Street Elementary in Riverhead.
The Long Island Museum, (LIM) a Smithsonian Affiliate dedicated to American history and art with a Long Island connection, is pleased to announce the virtual field trip program, Vehicles for Change, in which students learn how to utilize historic objects and documents to understand how transportation has been connected to social changes in United States history.
Long Island Museum’s Public Programs Coordinator Emma Backfish and Senior Educator Kristin Cuomo prepare a virtual learning experience for the students participating in the Museum’s new online program, “Vehicles for Change.”

To pilot this new educational program, the LIM partnered with Riverhead’s Pulaski Street School which has benefitted in the past from the LIM’s Rides for Kids program, a specially funded endeavor that can provide underserved schools with partially-subsidized transportation costs and reduced program fees. The LIM offered the program to all 34 of the school’s 5th and 6th grade classes free of charge during the fall of 2020 as an extension of Rides for Kids, thanks to the generous support received from Avalon Nature Preserve in Stony Brook.

“The museum typically welcomes over 10,000 school children a year for on-site field trips,” said Lisa Unander, Director of Education at the LIM. “Due to the COVID-19 pandemic it will not be possible for us to accommodate onsite field trips this fall and possibly beyond. We are especially mindful of what this loss means to the thousands of students who would have utilized funds from the Avalon-supported Rides for Kids program this year and so we have been working to find alternative ways to serve this important segment of our visiting population.” 
As part of the new Vehicles for Change program students delve into lessons surrounding social awareness, social justice and responsible decision making. The program is part of the school’s social and emotional curriculum.  Each session includes a remote 30-40 minute live museum educator-led presentation that will: 
  • Address content areas covering Social Studies, Citizenship, ELA and Communications curriculum, as well as social emotional learning (SEL), social justice standards, and culturally responsive educational (CRS) principles. 
  • Introduce students to Elizabeth Jennings and her fight for equal rights on public transportation in New York City.  Elizabeth Jennings (1827-1901) was an African-American teacher who fought for her right to ride on a New York City streetcar in 1854, leading to the eventual desegregation of the city’s transit systems. 
  • Examine the Museum‘s 1885 streetcar and other primary documents to understand how transportation has played a role in social justice movements. 
  • Explore the book Lizzie Demands a Seat!: Elizabeth Jennings Fights for Streetcar Rights, by Beth Anderson, to learn the role Jennings played. The LIM will also provide each classroom a copy of the book. 
Four Long Island School Districts have since signed up to participate in this valuable educational tool, including the Three Village Central School District. Three Village students in grade 4 took the opportunity to participate in the LIM’s program and are scheduled to participate in the 30 minute virtual visit from author Beth Anderson in honor of Black History Month. The author generously offered to do several virtual Meet the Author visits, in order to allow for more meaningful conversations with small groups. The Museum helped facilitate an agreeable date/time between the school and the author. 
A fourth grade student and teacher from W.S. Mount Elementary School in the Three Village Central School District participate in a remote learning session program provided by the Long Island Museum.

“Our district feels extremely grateful for our partnership with LIM, as it provided countless resources and opportunities for our students throughout the pandemic. Their virtual programming helped to deepen our school community’s connection, while staying socially distanced, as well as provided enriching content with curricular connections, including a program for our fourth graders that tied into their studies on state and local history. We look forward to our continued partnership and the upcoming program LIM is helping to coordinate with our elementary librarians and author Beth Anderson” said Deidre Rubenstrunk, Director of Instructional Technology / Data Privacy Officer at the Three Village Central School District.

Included in the pilot program were curriculum support materials for the school’s librarian/media specialist, including images of artifacts and access to an educator guide that includes discussion prompts, activities and primary source documents created by author Beth Anderson. In exchange for this program, the LIM asked the Riverhead’s Pulaski Street school to have all students complete an evaluation and for the School Media Specialist, Amelia Estevez Creedon to participate in a virtual wrap-up meeting to provide feedback that will ensure the LIM adequately and effectively meets teachers’ and students’ needs. 
“We are so grateful to Avalon Nature Preserve for supporting this enriching learning experience during a difficult time and we believe that this program will be both successful and meaningful for the participants.” said Unander. 
For more information on the LIM’s Vehicle for Change Program or for information on other school program offerings visit longislandmuseum.org/learn-and-explore/school-programs-overview/ or email Lisa Unander at [email protected]. 
Photos courtesy of the Long Island Museum