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Announcing Education Future Fiction Challenge Winners

Category: Center for the Future Of Museums Blog

Hi, Sylvea here…

In late January the we invited museum professionals, educators, futurists, education policy advocates, and community allies to contribute their vision of an educational future for the US that places museums at its core.

Many of you may recall the prompt: …about a future of education in which museums play a starring role.”

We have selected one first place winner and four runners up from the impressive pool of submissions.

First Place
Grand Prize of $1,000
Keely Sarr, “Standardized” (Assistant Museum Educator at Mead Art Museum)

“Standardized,” is the story of a young girl’s journey to curate an exhibition based on her greatest lessons learned in school. It begins: “In practice, the instllation of my senior Test Exhibition involved three main steps: painting, label-writing, and falling in love.

The protagonist describes her school—Lai-Brighton—as “half-school, half-museum….the brainchild of its art collector founders, and now every class is taught by works of art and TA’d by humans, basically.” For the Exhibition Test, each student “gets an empty gallery, unlimited access to the museum’s storage facilities, and a single essay question: What have you learned?”

Our Advisory Committee felt the story was “creative and inspired awe.” Furthermore, they appreciate the central role of “the museum” in the young student’s learning process. This story demonstrates what the future of learning could be like for some of the most exceptional students in 2040. And, it also allows readers to peer into what the future might look like for less dynamic schools. It’s a place where students take “great-grandma-style[d]” tests. They sit in computer booths and answer questions solely for the purpose of having their competence and employability assessed.

Curious about what happens with the Exhibition Test and who the lead character meets while doing research? Read “Standardized.”

I caught up with Keely to learn more about her interests in this “Future Fiction” Challenge. Here’s what she shared:
“As a young museum professional and a creative writer, this was my first opportunity to use both as a way to explain my passion and concern for education reform. I hope to be able to play an important role in helping to shape the future of education through my current role as a museum educator.

When asked about the kind of impact her first museum visit made, Keely recalled: “I’m from Hawaii –the first museum I ever visited was the Honolulu Museum of Art. I was small at the time and remember being excited to travel to a different island. That museum deeply affected me….left me wanting to see and learn more and wanting to travel more.”

Runners Up
Prize of $500 each
Joseph Daniel, “Living Dinoramas” (Paleontologist, Paleoaerie-Arkansas Educational Resource Initiative)
Excerpt: “The Museum started a doctorate program in comparative biology in 2006. As an expansion of that successful program, it partnered with the New York City Museum School to sponsor an integrated program for top high school students. Each year a team of students would be allowed to choose a display hall a redesign of the display, based on the newest research…the Class of 2040 had chosen the Cretaceous Dinosaur Hall.”

Sarah Dunifon, “Inbox: March 2040” (Student, Miami University)
Excerpt: “Global Climate Webcast – 60 points. For this assignment, you will be exploring different regions around the world and how changing climates have impacted the daily lives of the people who live there. You will use the National Climate Museum’s online site directory to find two different regions of the world. You will research these regions using the World Climate Museum’s website, and your VR headset tuned to the Google worldview. Then, you will set up an interview with two individuals from these places, from our partner schools. You may interview students, teachers, or approved community members.”

Matt Matcuk, “Learning All Over the Place” (Exhibit Development Director at the Field Museum)
Excerpt: “Today, students, caregivers, and teachers work together to decide on units of study. Each Learning Group is made up of four to ten kids, accompanied by a teacher. Groups larger than five have a teacher’s aide as well. And learning happens everywhere. Kids go to ‘school’ by visiting libraries, zoos, botanical gardens, aquariums, and cultural centers. They go to non-profits like universities, retirement homes, hospitals, and food pantries. New kinds of chaperone and transportation businesses—subsidized by funds that used to pay for buses—have popped up, to get kids to their learning destinations. It is all scheduled out ahead of time, and runs pretty well, thanks to Moore’s Law.”

Ashley Weinard, “Nimble” (Principal, Eduseum)
Excerpt: “’Come Look over here. This is my favorite area of the museum. The Director Of Transformation Beckons the young entrepreneurs on her tour over to a glass wall. They peer down into a room that is bright, tall, and spacious. Sunlight streams into the room through high clerestory windows and illuminates a string of action verbs written around the perimeter of the room:


As you can see, submissions for our Education “Future Fiction” Challenge came in a variety of creative writing forms—speeches, poetry, letters, email inbox snippets, plays, diary entries, and stories. In an effort to be inclusive to all learners—the entry process was also open to applicants who chose to create alternative statements of work, most of which were video and mixed media.

Applicants were encouraged to think about how museums can help respond to the following issues in the future:
-Bridging the gap between digital, economic, and social divisions among schools/districts and across regions
-Helping schools conquer fear of failure fostered by lateral testing<
-Responding to the growing inequities in educator training within K-12 education

They answered by highlighting several possible solutions, including:

-Risk-taking in curricula, teaching, learning and organization
-Hands-on, experiential learning in community spaces and homes
-Education-related technology and its impact on teaching and learning

Visit our Vibrant Learning website to read these winning stories and other entries on stories.
This process would not have been possible without the invaluable assistance of our Advisory Council, the CFM Team, AAM colleagues, and the 78 people who chose to imagine alternative futures and share their visions for the future with our readers. Thanks so much to you all.

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