By Patrick McShea
Among the joys of working as a museum educator are times when the traditional learning flow reverses. A memorable example occurred a few years ago during a writing exercise for high school students participating in the Allegheny College Creek Connections program.
Each student had been studying a stream near their school. My task was to motivate them to share their findings and impressions through writing.
I asked participants to write the name of their stream in the sentence: “________ ________ is far older than the road that shares its valley.” Then they had three minutes to compose the next narrative line.
A Butler County student had less work time than her peers, owing to the fifteen-letter Indian name “Connoquenessing” for the creek waters bordering her school’s campus.
Still, when she later recited a sentence that beautifully referenced horse-drawn wagons and steam locomotives
to note differences in travel time between creek valley towns during the previous two centuries, I involuntarily said aloud, “I wish I wrote that sentence.”
Patrick McShea works in the Education and Visitor Experience department of Carnegie Museum of Natural History. Museum employees are encouraged to blog about their unique experiences and knowledge gained from working at the museum.