Most museums do not offer outreach. A successful outreach program takes money, staffing, time, and a commitment to education, which frankly, most museums can't or won't commit to. We are lucky here at the Kentucky Derby Museum because we have funding from the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association, as well as from an anonymous donor. We also have management that truly values the importance of providing cultural and educational experiences for students across the state. Most of these kids will never walk through the doors of our museum, but virtually all of them will know and hopefully appreciate what the Kentucky Derby means to Kentucky.
Has it been successful? After a decade of providing free outreach programming, this year's calendar filled up completely in 26 days. That's 72 schools, in 37 counties, and 30,405 students. Yes, we have quality and engaging programming; and yes, it's free. But it also shows the hunger for schools to provide for their students relative and real-world applications of the things the teachers are teaching in the classrooms - even if it's a horse race in Louisville that only lasts two minutes.
So tomorrow brings another year of traveling, teaching, fast food (hopefully not much), getting lost (hopefully never), and best of all, teaching and interacting with students across the commonwealth.
There are schools like Crittenden County Elementary or Rockfield Elementary in Bowling Green, where I've been before, and at those schools, it's like seeing one of those friends or relatives you only see once a year. Other schools will be first-time visits - Rosspoint and James Cawood Elementary way down in Harlan County are on the schedule in April, and I'm very excited to get down that way.
There will be a few changes for the upcoming school year. My colleague in the Derby Museum Education Department, Liz Williams, will be teaching outreach programs as well as myself. Although this program is my baby, so to speak, I have no trouble admitting that the travel can become a grind. I love to teach, but I don't necessarily enjoy the driving part unless I'm driving through Red River Gorge or the Bluegrass Region. And speaking of babies, I am expecting my first in mid-October, to join the ranks of my wife, two foster children and two cats in our house. This has necessitated that I limit my dates out on the road, and am thankful that the outreach program will continue as strong as ever, with Liz and myself dividing the load.
Another change is a secret. For now. But it's big - and it's going to further expand our museum goal and mission of "Sharing the Fun of the Kentucky Derby Experience". I'll blog about it when I can.
Elizabethtown, Cloverport and Owenton are leading off this week. Stay tuned, there's never a dull moment when you're working with second graders.