School in the Park is a multi-visit museum program that blends formal and informal learning by utilizing the rich resources of museums and educational institutions in Balboa Park, San Diego, California. The program is designed with standards based curriculum to integrate what is learned at school with authentic learning connections from the Park institutions. School in the Park significantly alters the “normal” educational setting and methodologies for students and teachers by moving “school” into the larger community. This structured program focuses on high student expectations, alignment with state education standards, and authentic learning activities as students spend their time learning and gaining new experiences within museum settings.
School in the Park embraces Common Core strategies of instruction and assessment addresses California state standards at each grade level. These standards are imbedded into topics that are appropriate to each of the ten institutions in Balboa Park that participate in the program. Classroom teachers accompany their students to the week-long program. Museum teachers lead instructions with classroom teachers and SITP facilitators supporting the hands-on activities and museum visits. During this time classroom teachers model learning techniques for their students. They also have a unique opportunity to observe individual students in a one-on-one setting as well as helping students make connections between curriculum and museum curriculum.
Many times, students have not had many “out of the neighborhood” experiences. Consequently, they do not always have background information from which to connect new information. By attending classes at the museums, students are inundated with visual, auditory, and kinesthetic information. Displays and exhibits offer a feast of information for students to explore. As students advance in their academic careers, they now have a foundation of knowledge and a context in which to place new material. A focus on academic excellence provides School in the Park students with knowledge they need to achieve their current and future academic goal.