Local Students Are Unpacking the Past With The Penn Museum

Bianca Robinson, for GPA -- University of Pennsylvania President Amy Gutmann has unveiled a new school partnership that allows students from the School District of Philadelphia’s Knowledge is Power Program, Charter Schools and Mastery Charter Schools to connect their learning of ancient Egypt and Rome with hands-on experiences at the Penn Museum.

“Children will sometimes recall facts and sometimes not, but they will always recall experiences,” said School Superintendent William Hite Jr. as he stood in front of the museum’s Sphinx of Ramses II.

This program, titled “Unpacking the Past,” is being funded by a $1 million grant underwritten by the Annenberg Foundation and matching funds from PECO, the Robert M. Levy and Diane v.S. Levy Family Foundation and others. In total more than $2 million is being invested in this ambitious three year project.

Through free, year-long memberships for students, school, staff and their families, the Penn Museum gives children and the community the opportunity to engage with the exhibits while learning about humanity’s collective past.

"This is the kind of program that... showcases what Penn is uniquely qualified to do: share its deep history and educational resources to make a positive difference in the local community."

Developed with the close consultation of teachers and advisors, “Unpacking the Past” is designed to enrich the common core standards with curriculum in ancient world history, math and science.

The multi-stage program offers teachers professional development days to receive an overview of the museum’s collection, meet curators and researchers and attend workshops about the program.

Students will receive in-class visits from Penn educators who arrive in a “mummy mobile” in order to prepare students for their museum visit. During an interactive museum field trip, students receive an inquiry-based guided tour that includes workshop experiences and school projects.

At a “Mummy Makers” workshop after the unveiling of the program, Megan Becker, a museum educator, spoke to students of the Penn Alexander School about the mummification process, illustrating her points with a life sized model. She explained the importance of mummifying and discussed what the ancient Egyptians believed about life after death. Afterwards, a presentation was given on topics such as the Egyptian Book of the Dead and Egypt’s position as one of the superpowers of the ancient world. The museum hopes to reach 10,000 seventh graders each year.

Through the “Unpacking the Past” partnership with the School District of Philadelphia, the University of Pennsylvania is able to help preserve the arts and cultural aspects of education that have been cut or eliminated in the wake of district funding issues.

"As an internationally renowned resource for studying and learning about the world, the Penn Museum has a mission to transform understanding of our shared human experience," said Julian Siggers, Ph.D., Williams Director of the Penn Museum. 

Image courtesy of the Penn Museum.