Back to School with Joan Cummins

September brings with it new beginnings and challenges for students, educators and parents alike. This year, Lincoln’s Cottage is offering both virtual and in-person field trips for students as we attempt to navigate the ongoing Covid-19 crisis. I sat down with Programs Coordinator Joan Cummins to learn more. 


RK: It’s back to school time so let’s talk field trips!  What kinds of field trips is Lincoln’s Cottage offering this year?

JC: We’ve got a pretty good spread – there are onsite and virtual field trips for students in kindergarten through the university level, and we’re experimenting with options for PreK students as well. All the onsite field trips include a specialized tour of the Cottage and a hands-on component. Just like our standard Cottage tours, we’ve increased safety for these programs by limiting capacity and requiring everyone be masked while on the grounds. The virtual field trips are all synchronous, and connect our museum educators with students in the classroom or at home to learn about Lincoln’s experience here at the Cottage and work on their own brave ideas.

RK: I know it is hard to choose between such great programs, but which of these programs is your favorite to teach? 

JC: It really depends on the mood I’m in! I love teaching From Abe-to-Z because I love hearing all the great questions students have, especially younger students. If I’m in the mood for a really deep dive into content, and a complex discussion about Lincoln’s leadership and the legacies of slavery, Lincoln’s Toughest Decisions – which we do in person and virtually – can be really satisfying. And I always have fun with I See the President because we ask students to create a short acted-out fable, and it hearkens back to my previous work teaching playwriting.

RK: As a DC native, were there any field trips that inspired you as a child that you think back to now?

JC: Unlike many of the students who visit us at the Cottage on their school’s trip to DC, I never did field trips to, say, the Washington Monument or the Smithsonian museums as a native of the DC area. I do remember really enjoying the trip to see Shear Madness at the Kennedy Center, and just being thrilled that they were gonna let us decide how the ending of the story came out. That sense of agency was so exciting, and it’s something we incorporate into all our field trips at President Lincoln’s Cottage. Each and every program includes moments for students to share their own perspectives and to develop their ideas about the world.

 RK: How has Abraham Lincoln influenced the way the Cottage has designed education programs—like these field trips– during the pandemic?

JC: I’d be very curious to hear what Lincoln thought of the concept of field trips, as a person who never really got to go to school! I know he liked to go out into the world to learn from the perspectives of those around him, so I think he would have appreciated the type of experiential learning field trips can offer.

 Learn more about our in person and virtual field trips on our website or download our programs brochure.

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