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Tuesday, Sept. 7, 2010

Bay View Observatory Points to Brighter Future

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For a country that pledged to leave no child behind, America continues to do so at an alarming rate. According to Stanford University professor emeritus of psychology Philip Zimbardo, on average one child drops out of school every nine seconds. Among the shortcomings of elementary and secondary education is the fact that many adults don’t realize that today’s kids are different. In many cases, by the time a U.S. boy is 21 years old, he has spent 10,000 hours playing video games. In spending so much time in a world they create, kids are digitally rewiring their brains, and moving further away from learning “reading, writing and arithmetic” in a traditional analog classroom. Discovery World’s executive director, Paul Krajniak, understands that America’s method of educating young people needs to evolve to keep pace with a new generation, and so created a progressive partnership with Milwaukee Public Schools called “The Art and Archaeology of Me.”

Designed to help Bay View High School students learn to communicate the science of archaeology through visual art, “The Art and Archaeology of Me” academic program bridges high-school students with Discovery World staff, local professionals from various fields, and paid student interns who took part in last year’s program to explore the past in new ways. Over the course of 10 weeks, the program’s 25 students learned concepts such as ancient art and archaeology, urban archaeology, genetics and genealogy, as well as skills such as interviewing and storytelling, Photoshop, Marantz audio recording, 2-D and 3-D design and mapmaking.

“When we reached the end of the program, the students had so much content that they wanted to do something with it,” explains Heidi Heistad, staff member and video producer at Discovery World. “We sat down and brainstormed and we heard their ideas, we shared our ideas, and we brought them together.”

The result is the Bay View Observatory, an extraordinary public art installation and educational experience located on the lawn of the Beulah Brinton House, the headquarters for the Bay View Historical Society. The temporary installation is based on the idea of a compass, with four 12-foot-tall banners representing the four cardinal directions. The colorful, unique banners designed by the students include a montage of personal and historic photographs, quotes, maps and personal markers the students invented. Between the banners are 30 historical markers that point to and explain historically significant sites within the neighborhood.

The Bay View Observatory is free and accessible to the public 24 hours a day, seven days a week through Sept. 12. Three of the Bay View High School students created the first and only audio walking tour of Bay View. By going to www.discoveryworld.org/bayview/walkingtour, visitors can download a map and the 90-minute walking tour audio file for the journey to 12 of Bay View’s most interesting historic sites.

On Saturday, Sept. 11, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. “The Art and Archaeology of Me” students and Discovery World staff will be at the Observatory’s community table to document their Bay View neighbors’ stories and historic photographs, papers and artifacts. In turn, the community can witness how these American high-school students are not only “not left behind,” but are leading the way to a brighter future.

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