A Look at the McClung Museum’s Bilingual Educational Program
By Yvonne Ratledge
In 2017, McClung Museum Curator of Education Leslie Chang Jantz began iVamos al Museo! (Let’s go to the Museum!) as a way to connect with the Spanish-speaking community in Knoxville. What started as a project near and dear to her heart has expanded into one of the McClung Museum of Natural History & Culture’s favorite educational programs.
iVamos al Museo! was created to engage Spanish-speaking students and families with the McClung Museum. The program offers free museum excursions, where families can explore the galleries, exhibitions, and collections through guided bilingual tours and activities.
“I saw a need for parents who spoke Spanish to connect to their children’s experiences in school. So as a museum professional, I saw an opportunity to create a space for that.”
Not only does the program welcome new Spanish-speaking families to the museum, but it also aims to make the museum available to a wider audience by removing barriers to access. By providing free programming and transportation, iVamos al Museo! creates a space for multicultural learning and engagement.
Before the Covid pandemic, iVamos al Museo! had lots of momentum. But when everything shut down, the Education Team at the McClung Museum was forced to adapt. They provided learning tools for families to do the program at home in the form of packets and small activities that fit into McClung Museum-themed bags.
While it was well-received, Chang Jantz missed the personal interaction and experience of bringing the families of iVamos Al Museo! to the museum. As pandemic restrictions have lifted, the program has relaunched and is on its way to regaining the success it had before.
“On a very intimate, personal level, I think it is successful. I think it makes a difference for those families who are able to show up, who trust us with their weekend time, and spend part of their Saturday with us,”Chang Jantz remarks.
As it stands, iVamos al Museo! is already creating new connections between the museum and the Knoxville community, but Chang Jantz dreams of expanding the program to a broader audience.
“I am very aware that this program is driven by my personal experience of what I can specifically bring to the table as a native Spanish speaker. I can bring the language, I can bring cultural affinity, I can bring connection and that’s something I can do authentically. That doesn’t mean that I’m not aware that there are communities that are not represented in our programming. Yet.” Chang Jantz hopes.
The program’s most significant barrier now is funding. Making the program free grants accessibility to all, but the money for those services has to come from somewhere. Chang Jantz aspired to secure sustained support for the program. “I would like to see sustainability for this programming, and I would like to see funding for years to come. I want to see more programs….” Chang Jantz adds. “I want the McClung Museum to be known as an institution, as a place, where meaningful bilingual, multicultural experiences can be had.”
The McClung Museum welcomes any form of help for this program, and iVamos al Museo! is always looking for new volunteers or donors who want to be a part of something special.
The program’s success depends not only on the McClung Museum’s Education Team but also on the help of the generous people who contribute their time, funds, and expertise to the program. With sustained support from donors and volunteers, iVamos al Museo! has the potential to reach even more families in the Knoxville community.
For more information, volunteer opportunities, or to support iVamos al Museo!, contact email@example.com.