Are you interested in art, science, or history? How about helping others learn and explore new things? Do you want to work in a collaborative environment with lots of networking opportunities? Then perhaps Museum Education is the field for you! The Roberson Museum and Science Center, located at 30 Front Street right in Binghamton, is a local gem where visitors can see incredible artwork, explore cultures from around the world, and learn about our planet and beyond. The museum staff also offer a great variety of creative and educational programs for community members of all ages.
To help you learn more about the work of a Museum Educator, Suzy Kitchen, Education Director at the Roberson Museum and Science Center, has shared her experiences with us. Check out her responses below, which outline her journey to becoming the Education Director, the major responsibilities and skills involved in Museum Education, and ways that you as a student can get involved in the Roberson’s programs!
- What was your major in college?
Elementary Education, Curriculum Development, Leadership (I am in dissertation for a doctorate in Executive Leadership at Le Moyne College).
- What activities and clubs/organizations did you participate in during college?
Association for the Education of Young Children-local chapter; Early Childhood Club; Student Association Dorm representative; Newman Center/religious education teacher.
- How did you get involved in the field of museum education?
I was involved as a formal education teacher with a museum school partnership. The work of this collaboration brought me knowledge of the unique resources that informal educational organizations, such as libraries, museums, historical societies, etc. offered in the area of supporting learning.
- What were some of the stepping stones that led you to become the Education Director of the Roberson Museum and Science Center?
My experiences as a classroom teacher with work on the museum school partnership, then organizing, planning, and funding field trips as a building principal, followed by work as a director in a professional learning organization, have brought me to this recent role.
- What are the top three essential skills needed to be a successful Museum Educator?
Since this is a job in a non-profit organization, one of the skills needed is flexibility. Being able to pivot and learn on the job is key. Communication skills are essential. Learning how people like to receive communication and how all the moving parts communicate together is important. Building relationships is a key skill in this role. Working across departments and with the community requires the ability to create strong relationships. This allows the person in this role to be flexible and communicate effectively.
- What does a typical work day look like for a Museum Educator? An Education Director?
Museum Educators are part-time staff that are responsible for learning the activity and lesson they will be teaching to a group of students, or visitors. They have three parts to their day: before the lesson preparation, during the lesson delivery, and post-activity feedback. Museum Educators need to know many aspects of art, history, and science. They have a general to specific knowledge of our mansion, our art museum, and the planetarium. They work special events, give mansion tours, and add updated content for our activities and other areas.
Planetarium/Museum Educators are specially trained to run our fixed full-dome planetarium. This is a really cool job. This is a part-time role for all the astronomy and outer space enthusiasts!
As Education Director (and I oversee the Planetarium and Public Programs), a typical day can be outlined by specific tasks on the calendar (meetings, plannings, webinars, and responding to emails), overseeing the Education Coordinator’s processes and making sure we are meeting our goals, and setting targeted times for program planning, meeting with staff, and vetting curriculum content. I work closely with community organizations on partnerships that bring combined resources for the education and engagement of our visitors.
- What advice would you give a current student interested in a career in museum education?
Volunteer for the museum, or work part time during your studies at a museum. As a Museum Educator you can have a lot of flexibility. This allows you to see what a museum (and planetarium and mansion – because this is a very unique situation at Roberson Museum and Science Center) is like from “behind the scenes”. If a person has some general interest in curriculum and comfort working with people from all ages and stages, museum education might be a fit for you. Full-on background in education is not always necessary. Ask an organization for opportunities to develop and grow your skills. Consider if the career has mentorships, onboarding, and shadowing to allow for comfort and ease into a museum education role.
- How can Binghamton University students get involved in the Roberson Museum and Science Center’s educational programs?
Several organizations on campus volunteer for our community events! They come with a group of friends. They can contact Alexa Reynolds (firstname.lastname@example.org). Students can reach out to me or our Education Coordinator for a tour or other information. There are opportunities for internships in the field of education, curation, and other areas. Several Binghamton University departments have worked with our collections and education departments. These internships come from conversations with the faculty and student as they develop their skills as a graduate or undergraduate student.
For more information about the Roberson Museum and Science Center’s volunteering opportunities, please visit their website. Also check out their educational programs and their calendar of events. Lastly, don’t forget to use the Fleishman Center’s Education & Human Services career cluster page to explore similar jobs. Start getting involved today!