Museums are combining childcare and education that’s more affordable than private tutoring

Kid in Science Museum
Kid in Science Museum

Children play in a large mirrored object at the Science Museum on it’s official re-opening day on August 19, 2020 in London, England. The Science Museum reopens its doors to the public today, nearly five months after the Coronavirus pandemic shut down all public spaces. Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

As early as March of this year, many parents realized that their children likely would not physically attend school for the fall semester due to the pandemic. This led to a mad scramble to make other arrangements. 

Some parents opted for “pandemic pods,” which are essentially groups of 10 or fewer students learning together in a home environment with mutually agreed upon health precautions being taken outside the classroom. Some turned to websites like Selected for Families and Schoolhouse, professional services that match families with tutors. Others simply waited for guidance from their local school district, many of which held off to make determinations about plans for the upcoming school year as they tracked local cases of the novel coronavirus. 

Meanwhile, cultural and community organizations across the country — like museums, recreation centers, and history archives — spent the summer temporarily closed to the public. Many have since reopened by adding online learning assistance and in-person programs to their list of services, which while not accessible to every student, has become a financial lifeline for working parents and the institutions themselves. 

For many parents, this is a joint childcare and schooling solution

Related Articles

The Frazier History Museum in downtown Louisville, Ky., launched their NTI — or non-traditional instruction — from the Frazier program on Aug. 31. It’s an all-day program with workstations for students in second through ninth grades. While the students each follow their own school curriculum, museum educators are on hand to help answer questions, assist with technology, and host end-of-day activities in the galleries. 

Mick Sullivan, the manager of youth and family programs at the Frazier, says that the program averages about 10 students, each of whom are required to bring their own mask, laptop or other device, headphones with microphone, school supplies, and lunch. 

The museum is following state-mandated sanitation requirements and pandemic precautions. 

“When people come in, they’re getting their temperatures checked,” Sullivan said. “We’re doing hand washing and sanitation. Everybody has their own workspace with well over 15 square feet around them. Everyone also has their own specific sets of curriculum, so there is no sharing of materials.” 

Finding this kind of all-day childcare with qualified educators has been top of mind for many parents since the summer. According to an August Washington Post-Schar School nationwide poll, 50% of working parents said it would be “harder” or “impossible” to do their jobs if their children’s schools provided only online instruction this fall, while 50% said it would have no effect.

“I talk to the students’ parents every day, and the people that are making use of our offerings, they’re people who work downtown,” Sullivan said. “This is a convenient