Post Museums See Increase in Visits
Francoise Bonnell shows teachers how they can better support learning goals using Museum artifacts this past summer

The U.S. Army Quartermaster and Women’s museums have dramatically increased their school field trips for the next year.

“We’re just a little shy of 4,000 students right now,” said QM Museum’s Curator of Education Selena McColley, noting that the total represents scheduled visits and outreach programs. “That’s a lot of students compared to 121 students visited in the year before I started (in 2005).”

McColley said she is quite encouraged at the prospect of seeing hundreds of area students pass through the doors of the post museums in the near future.

“I’m very excited,” she said. “From the first time I walked into this (the QM) museum, I was blown away by the resources that are available to schools, teachers, students and the general public. I’m glad that we can share those resources with the community.”

Schools located in the Tri-Cities area as well as schools from Richmond and beyond have scheduled visits to the facilities.

What are the factors that led to the increase?

“Aggressive marketing on our part,” said McColley. “Secondly, quality programs that meet the needs of teachers and students, and finally the quality of resource that the museums are.”

Both museums are treasured resources within military communities, but there was some level of unfamiliarity with the facilities beyond the confines of the installation, said McColley.

“I taught seventh grade in Colonial Heights for seven years and did not know this opportunity was here for my students,” she said. “People are just finding out about us.”

That was also the sentiment many teachers expressed during a tour and open house held in the summer. About 10 teachers from the surrounding communities attended the event, were encouraged about what they experienced and indicated that they would return to the museums with their students. McColley said that event and other efforts have certainly helped.

“And we’re still trying to get out in the community and speak to more teachers and educators,” she said, “particularly in Petersburg.”

When the students visit each museum, they will have access to two different educational programs that compliment each other and support Virginia’s Standards of Learning standardized testing. McColley said the programs will have a profound affect on students’ ability to further their learning.

“The positive impact the Fort Lee museums can have on a child’s educational experience is endless,” said McColley. “What we as educators, and parents for that matter, want for our children is to create the spark that leads to a desire to learn and then fan that spark into a flame – a child who becomes a lifelong learner.”

An increase in hundreds of visitors will certainly put a strain on the staffs at each facility. McColley said an enthusiastic and sizable volunteer squad stands ready to support the mission.

“We’re very fortunate that we have a strong core of volunteers,” she said. “Because of this, I can provide the children a truly unique museum experience.”

The volunteers make it possible to divide visiting classes into groups of six, said McColley, but she said there always a need for more volunteers.

“I’m always looking for volunteer ‘museum educators’ to assist me in providing educational and fun experiences for children visiting the museum,” she said.

Schools interested in visiting the museums can call (804) 734-4203. Transportation costs will be reimbursed to schools in Prince George, Colonial Heights, Petersburg, Hopewell, Sussex, Dinwiddie and Chesterfield County (schools south of Route 10). Reimbursements are made possible by the QM Foundation through a grant from the Cameron Foundation.