Natural History Museum Hires Educator
to Take the Museum to the People
Leanne Kennedy once took a rhinoceros - collected by Teddy Roosevelt - to the Pennsylvania State Capitol.
This former museum educator at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh believes that when people can't visit the museum, she must take the museum to them.
At the Carnegie Museum, for example, she found innovative ways to bring the astonishing world of natural history to catastrophically ill children in hospitals and to special needs populations including blind, deaf, multiply-disabled, and autistic children and designed programs for senior citizens. Her innovative outreach programs became nationally known and were supported by major grants.
She also created large-group programs for schools, and enhanced the science curriculum for elementary and middle schools. From her base at the Carnegie Museum, the fourth largest natural history museum in the United States, her work took her into three different states.
Now Kennedy has come to Connecticut, to the State Museum of Natural History at UConn. As the museum's new education coordinator, she will launch a new pilot program of educational outreach to schools, community centers, libraries, and other organizations.
"As the State's museum, we view all corners of the state and points in between as our backyard. It is often easier for the Museum to take programs out to schools and community groups than it is for them to come to us, especially those at a distance from Storrs," says Ellen J. Censky, museum director, who initiated the new educational outreach program.
"We are lucky to have attracted Leanne Kennedy to this museum," Censky adds. "Our mission is to serve the people of Connecticut by promoting an understanding and appreciation of our natural and cultural world. Outreach is a highly effective way to achieve that objective."
Currently, the State Museum of Natural History is growing into a new location, the former Horticulture
Storage Building next to Gampel Pavilion. During the renovations, the Museum's popular on- and off-campus programs continue to attract some 70,000 people annually.
"At this pivotal time in the life of the Museum, it is incredibly exciting to contemplate the future," says Kennedy. "Building on UConn's commitment to the State Museum of Natural History - as well as the strength of its programs, exhibits and staff - school and community outreach will extend and enhance many facets of Museum education. Through collaborative efforts, we can offer programs that will combine existing talents and resources in new ways to provide exceptional learning opportunities for people throughout the state."
Although she has been in Connecticut for less than a month, Kennedy has already taken the Museum into two towns, Eastford and Mansfield, and invites teachers and others to contact her as she begins an assessment of statewide needs for innovative and unusual science programs.
Kennedy's experience includes planning and developing education programs and exhibits at two museums. At the Carnegie Museum, she was responsible for classes, camps and workshops; classroom resources and teacher guides; library services; traveling exhibits programming; city-wide and neighborhood events; dramatic interpretive programs; and hands-on interactive activities. She also trained a volunteer corps of 50, and launched a school program serving about 50,000 children annually.
Kennedy has served as an advisor to the Frick Art and Historical Center and Silver Eye Center for Photography. She earned a master's degree in teaching from the University of Pittsburgh, is a certified elementary school teacher, and graduated summa cum laude with a B.A. in social work from the University of Pittsburgh.
Kennedy says she hopes members of the community will contact her. "I'm eager to talk with teachers, families, kids and other community members about their ideas for outreach," she says. "It is imperative to understand and assess needs so that we can best serve the community and fulfill our mission."