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Distance learning at Cleveland Museum of Natural History

Written by Ben Newsome on June 11th, 2014.      0 comments

On leaving Indianapolis I dropped into Cleveland to visit a hive of activity in the video conferencing world. Nestled on the shores of Lake Erie, Cleveland is home to a variety of cultural institutions that run distance learning IVC programs including the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, theCleveland Museum of Art, Rock Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Dinosaurs at the Cleveland Natural History Museum

My first stop was with the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, situated within the University Circle district not far from downtown Cleveland. On entering the building I was greeted by Lee Gambol, an exuberant and knowledgeable science presenter who spearheads over 30 video conference science programs and also runs outreach sessions plus the popular summer camps at the site. Walking toward the distance learning room I couldn’t help but be excited as we walked past Lucy, the remains of an ancient hominid found in Africa that I had only read about in textbooks. The museum also houses a variety of marine fossils that are found in the 350 – 400 million year old Cleveland shale, the famous of which would be Dunkleosteus which was a massive 30ft apex predator that preyed within the Devonian seas.

Lee Gambol holding a cast of Dunkleosteus jaw

Having such a large variety of distance education programs requires a fair amount of coordination; the museum interacts with over 500 distance classes each year with the majority of them being 1:1 sessions. Nearly all of the programs are supported by boxes of equipment sent out prior to the lesson and used as interactive materials for the students to use. We discussed several programs, including the Devonian fossils, the sexual health program for high school students, geology, climate and the just senseless senses workshop for younger students. A unique program run is that surrounding Balto, a Alaskan sled dog famous for leading a team of dogs to deliver diphtheria medicine to the Alaskan district of Nome in 1925 (the famous Iditarod race is based loosely around this delivery).

Vinnie-cam in the distance learning room!

Time was made for a VC chat with the East Ohio Educational Service Center which in itself is a content provider of video conferencing sessions. The school district runs 14 sessions to students across the USA. The district also bring in mandarin speaking teachers from China to run distance lessons to schools throughout the district. Lee also took me to her former haunt at the Great Lakes Science Centre which houses the lander from the 1973 Skylab 3 Apollo Program in the NASA Glen Vistor Center and has a large variety of hands on exhibits that would engage even the most recalcitrant teenager. As the museum is directly adjacent to the lake the ship William G. Mather is docked to support an exhibit to the science of steam and environmental conservation efforts on the lake. We also spent some time at a Cleveland must for gastronomical delights; ‘Melts‘, famous for great tasting subs and for appearing on Man vs. Food :)

Skylab 3 Apollo Lander

The next entry will on the Cleveland Museum of Art, the next stop on this Winston Churchill Fellowship.
Science and art? Absolutely!

Catch you on the next round,


Ben Newsome
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