Last year, more than 40 school groups visited Scottsdale Museum of the West.

A local museum is on a mission to showcase Arizona’s western way of life. 

Scottsdale Museum of the West (SMoW), located in downtown Scottsdale at Marshall Way and 1st St., is expanding its educational outreach with new specialized school programs. Hosting student field trips and homeschool days has been a great source of pride for the museum since it opened in 2015, but the staff is now offering even more opportunities for local students to learn about the land and southwest region. 

The museum organized its programs into six areas of study that educators can easily integrate with their in-classroom curriculums. 

“The museum is looking forward to a busy school year,” said Kat MacDonald, the museum’s education and cultural engagement director. 

“Last year, more than 40 school groups visited the museum. Our goal for 2019-2020 is to broaden our outreach in the Metro Phoenix area by introducing more educators to the wonderful resources we have available for them at SMoW,” MacDonald said. “We want to partner with them to excite their students and to help them promote an understanding of the importance of this place we call home.” 

It’s all part of the museum’s vision to serve as a resource for teachers. 

This year’s school programs will build on that setup and focus on the following key areas: An Introduction to the American West, The Oregon Trail and Westward Expansion, Moments in Arizona History, The Five Cs of Arizona, Spanish and Mexican Influences in Arizona and Sustainability. These themes were chosen to align with classroom lessons. 

By being immersed in captivating stories of the West, school-age children may feel a greater connection to where they live. 

“Our region is rich in unique personalities, as well as culture and history, which naturally lends itself to the storytelling approach that helps students see the West from a new perspective,” MacDonald said. 

Whether learning about cowboy tools, designing their own brand or discovering the secret of soundproofing in the museum’s theater (locally sourced cotton!) tours showcase the museum’s features. This includes elements of conservation and design in the building, which have contributed to its earning the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold Standard Certification. 

“Students are not only hearing stories, they’re also participating in a multi-sensory experience that includes things they can see, projects that encourage their personal creativity, and objects they can touch and try for themselves,” MacDonald added. “It’s a fresh interpretation of the subject matter.” 

“The program has contributed to the growth of our nation through advancements in industry, agriculture, transportation, art and culture, education, and much more,” MacDonald said. “We celebrate these achievements but also connect them to the current challenges and opportunities facing the American West.”  

In addition to programs for schools, the museum also offers dedicated homeschool days, with permanent exhibitions and several regularly-rotating galleries and a family-friendly scavenger hunt.  

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