Creating Real-World Experiences for Students

Communications Office
High School students excavating on a paleontology trip

Adolescent students are striving toward adult roles and crave real, adult experiences that help them follow their interests, work through challenges, and discover their strengths. The period of adolescence is a powerful time of creative energy that is singularly directed toward transforming a child into an adult. The energy must be matched by opportunities in the surrounding environment that facilitate engagement.

Too often, students at this age find themselves in surroundings that not only are uninspiring, but that are barely tolerable. Busywork saps positive energy. How can creative energy be engaged during this critical time? Offer an environment that is not just challenging, but one that is carefully matched to teenagers’ particular interests and insights? Provide options that are clear paths toward adulthood and that support and challenge? Supporting this energy requires purposeful and engaging experiences with adults who are subject matter experts.

Post Oak’s Museum District and Partnerships

student interns

Houston’s Museum District provides a rich, cultural environment offering arts, sciences, medicine, history, and education. The Post Oak School program uses these resources like never before. Each organization in the Museum District presents a microcosm for learning—an environment of artifacts and programming–but most importantly, adults who are experts in their various fields.

The Post Oak School creates pathways leading to each institution in the district. These pathways connect students to interesting adult experts and engaging work.

As a Post Oak School partner, each institution gains access to innovative educational approaches for its own work with Middle and High School students. Just as each Museum District organization has its own specialty, The Post Oak School is focused on developmental education. The methods for offering engaging experiences at the High School are not limited to Post Oak students and there is ample room for sharing with education departments around the Museum District.

Other schools and programs that work with students will capitalize on this model for deeper engagement and real-world connections for students in the Houston area.

The partnerships with institutions in the Houston Museum District are a key part of what sets The Post Oak School apart from other schools. Each Museum District organization is engaged in two regards: 

  1. Its specialist faculty and their related program functions, and
  2. Its organizational structure or business functions in which adolescents might be able to participate.

Across those two functions, there are three primary connections between the school and a local institution. First, teachers and groups of students benefit by connecting directly with experts and labs for experiences within class settings or class extensions (like extended lab experiences). This connection directly supports the school’s mission. Second, individuals follow deep interests and benefit from expertise in the organizations and field experience with expert curators and staff. This supports the personal mission of each student. Third, museums benefit from bright, committed, and interested young people who can assist with field and lab work, thereby supporting the institution and its mission.

The student’s role becomes increasingly complex and participatory over time.

Borrowing from Roger Hart’s Ladder of Participation, we understand that engagement in work progresses through stages from tokenism to citizenship. For Hart, tokenism is really only the highest stage of “non-participation” and the culmination of citizenship represents child (student) initiated decisions shared with adults. To help teenagers develop into active citizens, we must constantly consider their progression on this hierarchy.

The partnerships are not a series of events, field trips, or one-time occurrences. The school’s relationship with other organizations extends the campus of the school and broadens the opportunities for each student. The embedded nature of the partnerships extends student interests and draws them into our specific place in the Houston Museum District.

Read about high school internships in the Museum District.


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