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Story 09: Beyond Museum Walls

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Part II: Community Services Department

Written by Dorothy Merrill

I joined Jim Zien, Jane Kamps, Liz Hastie and Bernie Zubrowski in the Community Services Department in 1972, after seven years as an elementary classroom and music teacher. My experience as co-developer of a Saturday program, Project Potential, that paired sixth graders with adult mentors in activities such as chess, jazz band, cartooning, cooking, bookmaking and pet care persuaded me that informal education was an area I wanted to explore. Impressed with Project Potential and my ability to work with fiberglass, Jim added me to his expanding department, along with naturalist Jory Hunken, the staff of Cooperative Artists (Charlie Holley, Susan Porter, Tom Garfield and Curtis Jones) and early childhood educator Jeri Robinson. Our assignment was to offer staff training—with and without children—and curriculum and materials development to groups serving primarily low-income children in Greater Boston. Our educational goals centered around helping both kids and adults learn by doing—exploring, experimenting, making things, doing projects, building skills and learning to use tools. I was called a "developer." I found audiences for the Community Services Department, figured out what they needed and made connections to what the museum could offer them. Some of my work was onsite, developing programs at the museum, and some was off-site at various community venues where services were needed.

Next: What inspired the development of the Community Services Department?