Baylor graduate Rachel Moore had somewhat of an epiphany after her junior year of studying education. While working at a zoo, she discovered that education can occur outside of traditional classrooms.
“I had always wanted to be a teacher,” Moore said, “and I thought that meant I would be in a classroom. But after working at a zoo, I became passionate about informal education, and fortunately, two of my School of Education professors were eager to help me become an unconventional teacher.”
Alex Farrell Sudduth had a similar experience. In a junior course on elementary mathematics, professor Dr. Sandi Cooper took the class to Baylor’s Mayborn Museum to create a mathematics lesson based on the museum’s exhibits.
“It was so fun and exciting to be creative and craft lessons that related to our TEKS but also kept the students engaged in the topic,” Sudduth said. “I found the museum to be more inspiring than a traditional classroom.”
Sudduth pursued a master’s degree at Baylor SOE, which professors tailored to coordinate with Baylor’s Museum Studies Department, allowing her to develop the expertise for her current job as education manager for the Caldwell Zoo in Tyler.
Moore also pursued a master’s in the SOE’s Department of Curriculum & Instruction with customized experiences developing museum field trips and managing tour guides. Moore did teach in a classroom, in American Samoa, for a year but even there, she worked with the local museum on projects for her students. Upon her return, she was all-in for a career in informal education and now manages tours and school programming at Waco’s Dr Pepper Museum & Free Enterprise Institute.
While both of these educators found their calling — eventually — and prepared through a master’s program, graduate school is not possible for every student, said Cooper, who collaborated with fellow SOE faculty member Dr. Barbara Purdum-Cassidy and Dr. Kim McCray and Lesa Bush, BSEd ’95, in Museum Studies to develop a new program at the undergraduate level.
The new Minor in Informal Education will prepare bachelor’s level students for museum roles through a joint program between the SOE’s Department of Curriculum & Instruction and Baylor’s Department of Museum Studies in the College of Arts & Sciences.
Moore said, “Most museum educators have stories similar to mine; they had no idea there was another option for teachers until they stumbled upon it.”
Beginning in the fall semester of 2020, students can begin the minor program, which comprises an 18-hour course of study — nine semester hours in Museum Studies, six hours in Education, and one three-hour course that is a collaborative course between the departments, offering a practicum experience.
The SOE’s Department of Curriculum & Instruction continues to offer Informal Education as a cognate area for graduate students, but faculty are excited about the new minor, because they saw a need for this area of study for undergraduate students.
“Nationwide, university programs focused exclusively on museum education currently exist only at the graduate level,” Cooper said. “This is a roadblock for undergraduate students interested in developing an expertise in informal education for the museum field. And not all museums or informal sites such as zoos, aquariums, parks, etc., are able to recruit staff with graduate degrees. But they do need qualified employees with educational experience, so this minor offers undergraduate students with this opportunity.”
The course sequence includes classes in museum studies (MST) and education (EDP, TED)
MST 1300 — Introduction to Museum Studies
MST 2303 — Museum Educational Programming
MST (choice) — Students select from other MST offerings
EDP 3326 — The Developing Child
*TED 4360 — Curriculum and Teaching in Informal Environments
*TED/MST 4362 — Capstone in Informal Education with Practicum
*newly developed courses pending approval
Dr. Kim McCray, lecturer and graduate program director in the Department of Museum Studies, said that the new minor will be a great complement to the current minor offered in the department. She said the department has always had museum education as part of its curriculum of study, but the new collaborative minor offers more dedicated coursework focused on education for those with that specific interest, and students draw on the expertise of outstanding faculty from two Baylor departments and museum educators in both Waco and across the country.
“Education is a core function of museums. They are places of learning,” she said. “Education inspires museums, and museums inspire education.”
Baylor’s Museum Studies Department is housed in the Mayborn Museum Complex, offering rich opportunities for students to learn the theory and practice behind visitor engagement and giving students experiences with visitor interaction and gallery teaching. Students work with other Waco museums including the Waco Mammoth Site National Monument, Baylor’s Martin Museum of Art, the Historic Waco Foundation, and Cameron Park Zoo. Classes also interact with leaders from national sites such as Mount Vernon and the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture and the National Museum of American History.
Sudduth and Moore say that their experience learning informal education at Baylor SOE, in collaboration with Museum Studies, bodes well for the new undergraduate program.
“Baylor created a program with a perfect balance for furthering my development as an educator and exposing me to the ins and outs of the museum/zoo/aquarium world,” Sudduth said. “In my current position, I often find myself referring back to lessons or topics from courses during my graduate program.”
Moore said, “The skills I learned as a student at Baylor are crucial to my current role. I may not have my own classroom, but every year I am able to teach thousands of students with one-of-a-kind lessons and support hundreds of teachers with classroom materials and professional development.”
Moore also said she is lucky to continue working with Baylor professors, and she looks forward to having students in the new minor program visit the Dr Pepper Museum.
“I get to pay forward the opportunity my professors gave to me by working with SOE classes to give students experiences teaching in informal settings,” she said.
Baylor undergraduate students interested in the new minor program may contact Cooper at Sandra_cooper@baylor.edu for more information. Students should contact their academic advisor to add the minor.
ABOUT BAYLOR SCHOOL OF EDUCATION
For more than 100 years, Baylor educators have carried the mission and practices of the School of Education to classrooms and beyond as teachers, leaders in K12 and higher education, psychologists, academics/scholars and more. With more than 50 full-time faculty members, the schoolâ€™s growing research portfolio complements its long-standing commitment to excellence in teaching and student mentoring. Baylorâ€™s undergraduate program in teacher education has earned national distinction for innovative partnerships with local schools that provide future teachers deep clinical preparation, while graduate programs culminating in both the Ed.D. and Ph.D. prepare outstanding leaders, teachers and clinicians through an intentional blend of theory and practice. Visit www.baylor.edu/soe to learn more.
ABOUT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY
Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 16,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.