Family Learning Forum

A Project of the USS Constitution Museum

Dissemination Initiatives

Family Programming Success Stories  |  Boston Workshops  |  Regional Workshops

Engage Families! Encouraging Family Learning Across the Nation

workshop audienceThe exploration and dissemination of family learning techniques by the USS Constitution Museum continued through the 21st Century Museum Professionals grant dubbed, Engage Families! A 2007 survey of more than 5000 museum-going families revealed that the likelihood of visiting a history museum or historic site increases in families with grade-school age children who are beginning to learn about history. There is a window of opportunity for museum professionals to entice families to visit, especially by developing special programs and exhibits targeting this audience. The ultimate goal of Engage Families was to help history museums create compelling, hands-on exhibits and programs to build family visitation to history-based museums.

Professional Development Opportunities

100 successful family programs

Family Learning ProgramAs part of the Engage Families mission to help museums develop compelling, hands-on exhibits and programs, we have created an online resource where museum professionals can browse examples of successul family programs and gain inspiration for their own institutions. Descriptions and details of 100 successful family programs have been gathered from museums around the country and posted on this website. View these family programming success stories.

Boston Workshops

Leaders in the field have shared their thoughts on programs and exhibitions for an intergenerational audience. Workshop participants remarked that, “this valuable, no cost workshop is very enjoyable” and, “[it] exceeded my expectations – I feel inspired and excited about implementing these ideas!”

November 15, 2010 - completed
View videos from this workshop.
  • Presenters Lynn Dierking, Professor of Free-Choice Learning at Oregon State University; Judy Rand of Rand Associates; John Russick and Lynn McRainey of the Chicago Historical Society; and Anne Grimes Rand of USS Constitution Museum shared exhibit techniques that encourage family engagement and explore the context and theory of free-choice learning.
September 24, 2009 - completed
View videos from this workshop
  • Beverly Sheppard of the Institute for Learning Innovation explored how we measure the value, engagment, and impact of family learning in museums.
  • Dan Freas of Conner Prairie shared his institution’s transformative family learning project, Openning Doors, which fundamentally changed how interpreters and family visitors interact with amazing results.
  • Ellen Thompson of the Boston Children’s Museum shared tips and techniques from a current IMLS-supported project which offered concrete recommendations for training frontline museum staff interacting with younger families.
  • Susie Wilkening of Reach Advisors helped participants better understand their present family audiences and future audiences needs and expectations. Susie’s presentation was based on current museum market research.


USS Constitution Museum staff have shared tested techniques in five free regional workshops, exploring successful strategies to engage families in exhibits and programs. Participants have stated that, “tons of great and practical ideas were presented in an engaging and manegable manner” and, “this is a session [from which] I can bring back a host of ideas to implement at once for very little money!”

  • Nashville, TN – April 18, 2011, hosted by the The Hermitage
  • Columbus, OH – March 4, 2011, hosted by the Ohio Historical Society
  • St. Paul, MN – April 26, 2010, hosted by the Minnesota History Center
  • Portland, OR – May 17, 2010, hosted by the Oregon Historical Society
  • Seattle, WA – May 19, 2010, hosted by the Museum of History and Industry
  • Jacksonville, FL – January 30, 2009, hosted by the Museum of Science and History