For several years the museum has hosted a Youth Ambassadors Program that allows young people to volunteer at the museum.

This week we held a meeting with our young volunteers to meet them, their parents, and to launch our revamped program. Youth Ambassadors is similar to an internship where both homeschooled and traditionally schooled students can volunteer, lead tours, and engage in outreach for the museum. What are some of the highlights of this program and why is it important for the volunteers, the museum, and the community? Let’s discuss!

Not all education occurs in a classroom.

As an educator for twenty-three years, an advisor, a mentor, and instructor, and yes, a mom, I can tell you that often the best educational experiences take place beyond the classroom by engaging young people with a variety of resources. In many ways, taking students out for experiential learning is a great way to engage them in a subject. Not every student learns best in a traditional classroom and while technology has revolutionized teaching, getting students outside of their school offers numerous benefits. Multiple Intelligence Theory by Harvard psychologist Howard Gardner is based on the idea that people can and do possess multiple intelligences. He viewed traditional measures of IQ to be far too limiting and that other categories, such as intrapersonal, visual-spatial, musical, and so forth are as important as what we call IQ and help us understand how different minds interpret information. Naturally, his theories have been criticized for being too broad or ascribing talent to intelligence, but I believe there is merit to his theory. Certainly, anyone who has taught, tutored, or even volunteered as a coach understands that everyone learns things in different ways. Some people are more visual, others learn better by reading, and there are those who learn via experiences or tactile learners.

The experience of visiting historical sites, museums, cultural centers offer us an opportunity to learn, analyze, and experience education in new and exciting ways.

For a young person the experience is exciting and so why not engages those who are local and interested in history and museums by offering a chance to volunteer? Thankfully, our community here in Rawlins has wonderful students who are eager to be part of the museum. Our volunteers come to us from different grades and even varying educational experiences, including traditional school and homeschooling. I believe that makes the program stronger as these students work together and interact with one another and our visitors.

How does the Youth Ambassadors 2019 program work?

We met to learn more about our volunteers and to gain insight and ideas from their parents. It was great fun and going forward we are going to lengthen our summer program, giving the students more hands on time in the museum. We also plan to do outreach locally; we would like to work with the local schools and perhaps do presentations to different clubs in the area. These students are creative and in redesigning the program, I think it is vital to take their individual strengths into account. Some are more design-oriented while others prefer engaging by conducting tours. I plan to integrate the Multiple Intelligence theory into our program so as to benefit the students as well as our museum.

In studies, young people who volunteer not only increase their knowledge base, but they come away from the experience with increased confidence and purpose.

These students graduate with higher percentage rates and they attend colleges in higher numbers than their peers. Certainly, community service benefits anyone who volunteers; it appears that this is especially true for young people. It increases their own self-esteem and their commitment to the community around them, and helps to shape their future.

Without the support of the parents, this program would not exist.

As I met the students I also engaged the parents, and I am so appreciative of their support and suggestions for the program going forward. If you are a museum or education professional, do not underestimate the power of parental involvement. Working in conjunction with them, we are strengthening our community and enhancing the experience for everyone involved.

In August the museum will host a celebration of our Youth Ambassadors to celebrate them and their parents.

We anticipate this to be a wonderful time to thank them and show them appreciation and to allow them to present their accomplishments. We expect this to be both fun and informative as the volunteers explain what their projects. I am excited for the students and our museum and eager to see how we all can grow together.

Dr. Dolores Pfeuffer-Scherer