Resources for small museums and historic sites
This National Park Service website offers a multitude of ideas for using historic places as a means to enhance and enrich learning through cooperation and collaboration among teachers, historians, and museum professionals. Especially helpful are these pre-made lesson plans for service learning projects.
In an era of declining field trip funding, traveling trunks are a good way to get your message out to the schools. Maureen Betz, author of Creating a Traveling Trunk Program: A Step-By-Step Guide for Wisconsin Historical Societies, provides practical advice on every aspect of these programs, from first idea to evaluation, in this manual. Download this and use it to guide your organization toward a successful new form of outreach (PDF).
The National World War II Museum in New Orleans also has a traveling footlocker program for schools that includes a variety of real artifacts from the 1940s. This manual for the program offers lots of good ideas for the kinds of artifacts that you might assemble for a similar project, and the questions about the artifacts that students are meant to answer are thoughtful and can adapted to other kinds of collections.
The Center for History and New Media created eight free activities for classroom teachers using primary sources including a document, a painted portrait, a map, a photograph, and even a television commercial. The lessons can be downloaded as PDFs. You can use these as templates for developing your own lessons for school children. Think about adapting these for use with adult visitors, too.