“Teachers continually search for programs that engage their students in ways they have not experienced,” said Diana Vela, PhD, Museum Director of Education and Exhibits. “The Museum is truly honored to have been recognized by the educators we work to serve and we commend the efforts of Director of School Services, Cindi Collins for her accomplishments.”
One of the most successful programs involved collaboration between the Museum and the Dublin, Texas, based Sierra Dairy, through a live video conference. More than 4,000 students experienced this event, the largest audience in the state for video conferencing. Sierra Dairy, owned and operated by Alan and Becca Vander Horst, is a 5,000-cow operation. Sierra was originally built in the late 1980s with 900 head in open lots and a double 14-herringbone milking parlor barn. It was remodeled in 2008 to the current 3,500 free stalls. The Vander Horsts have a deep commitment to education with Ms. Vander Horst being a life-long educator.
“Partnering with Sierra Dairy was truly a once-in-a lifetime experience for students who have never seen a dairy, and have not known how milk and butter get from the livestock to their table,” said Vela. “While most students are exposed to the standard lessons surrounding American history, very few have been exposed to the real stories and accomplishments of not only women of the West, but even of the modern-day dairy farmer.”
Video conferencing provides live interaction between the classroom and a remote site. Students are able to see the host site and interrelate – as if they were in a live classroom. The Museum offers nearly two dozen video conferencing programs, ranging from topics that cover social studies to courses on math and science. All courses are aligned with the TEKS. Cindi Collins, the Museum’s Director of School Services, content developer and deliverer for all programs provided by the Museum noted that, “The success of this program has been phenomenal. The Vander Horst family was very accommodating – and we are getting requests for another program live from the dairy.”
Through video conferencing, students get an authentic taste for the lives of women who were the early change agents in American history. Among the video conferences offered, students can learn about science by sorting, classifying and discovering how the basics of science play a role in the life of a rancher, or they can discover the story of the women of the American West during the late 19th and early 20th century’s who displayed extraordinary courage and pioneer spirit in their trail blazing efforts. While they’re at it, students learn that “cowgirl” is a word that is broadly construed and incorporates many people who all played a role in the West—from artists to ranchers.