By Diane Bui, MDMS Program Coordinator
Photos Courtesy of AALEAD MD Staff
One of the luxuries of living so close to Washington, DC is the ability to travel into the city and learn about American culture through the many Smithsonian museums in the area. On Saturday, March 11, we had the opportunity to bring 22 middle and high school youth from our MD programs to the National Museum of the American Indian.
In light of current events, it is crucial to learn more about other cultures, specifically the indigenous. Museums are a vital part of education as it gets students out of the classroom to learn about history. Many students struggle to remember dates and facts of historical events. However, museums often focus on artifacts and people, which to some, are easier to digest and remember.
Even though some youth have already been to the Museum of the American Indian, it’s always nice to go back a few times, because you never know what you may have missed the first time around. Youth spent an hour and a half separated into groups completing a scavenger hunt. Several questions on the scavenger hunt dealt with specific indigenous nations and their traditions and customs. It allowed youth to explore and interact with the majority of the exhibits, focusing on culture, history, and how indigenous people and Europeans interacted once colonization occurred.
After youth completed the scavenger hunt and had the chance to explore the museum on their own, we came back together to discuss the surprising and most interesting facts they found of the day.
The Great Inka Road was a highlight for many of the youth as most parts of the exhibit were interactive and offered wonderful visuals to add to the lessons they learned.
Discussing the history of indigenous people led to a natural progression into a conversation about current events. For example, many youth discussed the importance of the land and natural elements to indigenous people. This led to an in-depth conversation about current events and the importance of natural resources. While many youth have heard about the Dakota Access and Keystone XL Pipelines, many did not know specific details or why they have both been so contested by the public.
The youth walked away with new knowledge of indigenous people and the history of the land this country has been built upon. Exploring history in museums allow youth to learn at their own pace and provides a more in-depth look into topics youth show interest in.
Check out some of the pictures below from our day exploring DC and the American Indian museum!