This project presents a plan for developing and establishing an experimental program of correspondence education in the American Museum of Natural History.1 The purpose of the plan is to discover possibilities for extending the educational influence of the Museum, to assemble correspondence courses covering the various fields of natural science in which Museum departments are most competent, to organize and administer the program according to the highest recognized standards and practices in this area of education, and to establish procedures that other museums may follow in planning similar programs.
The plan deals with the social implications of museum education, stressing the institution's obligation to take all possible measures in the endeavor to determine and fulfill its educational objectives and to know and act upon the needs of the public insofar as these needs come within the areas served by the Museum. An analysis of existing adult education facilities within the Museum points out the need for experimentation by other methods in order to meet a wider audience. The historical aspects of correspondence education are reviewed to justify such an experiment within the framework of the Museum. Public needs are studied in relation to the potentialities of the institution for satisfying them.
A plan for instruction explores potential Museum courses and possible sources of students for a Museum correspondence program. The scope of the Museum makes it competent, within the field of the natural sciences, to support many socially and culturally significant activitiesto provide information, to encourage hobbies, and to facilitate personal enrichment. For example, a correspondence course in taxidermy, combined with certain aspects of conservation, is developed on sound principles as an experimental course. Instructional principles, procedures, and problems relating to the experimental course and to future programs are set forth. Grouped courses which lead the student from elementary to more complex understandings, both within a subject area and extending to other areas, are suggested. Group study is provided for community use, for the enrichment of small school curricula, and for students within a limited geographical area who are studying the same subject.
An organization plan demonstrates suggested mechanics of operation, including administrative procedures in setting up schedules for instruction and for business procedure. Costs of the program are treated under financial problems and divided into areas of instruction, printing, distribution, supply, advertising, promotion, and records.
The project concludes with a discussion of the bases and methods of evaluating both the experimental course and future courses with reference to Museum and student objectives; also included is a treatment of the limitations and obstacles that may be expected in consideration of the character of the Museum and its clientele.
1 The manuscripts of the Doctor of Education Project Reports reviewed in The Record are on file in the Library of Teachers College, Columbia University.