ACCESS in Action!

Traveling Exhibits Program

For the past 11 years ACCESS has received Mini-Grants from Humanities Texas, the State Affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. The exhibits displayed in the Austin area schools this year were:

Rural Texas Women at Work, 1930-1960
Dust Bowl


Comment from the school librarian, after displaying The Dust Bowl Exhibit:

"I would say that the 5th graders have found the exhibit most interesting, in part because in the fall they read the Bluebonnet Award Nominated Book: The Great American Dust Bowl by Don Brown and also because their teacher read them The Dust Bowl: An Interactive History Adventure by Allison Lassieur. This interactive adventure book uses a couple of the same photographs that are in the exhibit, which the students thought were really 'cool.'"

Comment from a student:

"Look how dry it was. There were no plants, just dirt. Even later when the boy in the picture was grown up it was still just dirt."


Many years ago, a fellow teacher and colleague expressed her frustrations during a particularly bad day in school. "You know," she said tapping on her watch, “time is really the only enemy of a teacher.” I've never forgotten her words. With all the modern-day demands on teachers in and out of the classroom, it’s comforting to know that there are folks out there who also understand the realities of the classroom and respond accordingly. Enter ACCESS to Learning, Inc.

Working in tandem with Humanities Texas, ACCESS to Learning, Inc. provides traveling exhibits on a variety of curriculum-based topics to local schools at minimum cost. Why traveling exhibits? As a former teacher and recipient of a tongue-in-cheek “King of Field Trips” faculty award, I can attest to what it takes in organizing off-campus activities for students. I was certainly not alone in the quest to provide students one-of-a kind educational experiences. I know plenty of educators who also believe the traditional classroom setting is not always the best venue for learning. Kids should be provided frequent opportunities for study away from their desks. However, tighter campus budgets - and that “time” thing - have made it more difficult to provide these opportunities to students and that’s where traveling exhibits can be most effective. While off-campus field trips are always a student favorite, traveling exhibits can offer the next best thing. Besides, what teacher really likes scheduling buses, begging for chaperones, and handling money and permission letters?

ACCESS to Learning, Inc. is the vehicle by which teachers can access (get it?) traveling exhibits from a list provided by Humanities Texas. They are visually appealing, TEKS-appropriate, and are delivered directly to the school’s door. The exhibit arrives in an all-in-one container and is relatively easy to set up. “Set up where”, you ask? The library is just about the perfect place to display a traveling exhibit. Not only does the library provide the necessary space, and is a major campus focal point, but also your wonderful librarian can provide teachers with additional resources to supplement the exhibit topic. Everybody wins.

Traveling exhibits also offer teachers a wide range of opportunities to address different learning levels and styles, among these: kinetic, visual, and textual learners. Teachers can tailor lessons to address all or part of the exhibit content (Some exhibits provide curriculum which teachers can use or modify for their students.). Why not share the experience and invite other teachers to use the exhibit? It’s a great way to collaborate and develop an interdisciplinary lesson or unit. How else can traveling exhibits be utilized?

Time-saving, curriculum-based, student-friendly, and versatile, traveling exhibits offer teachers an opportunity to bring the “outside in”. It’s an invaluable resource in the challenge to engage students and make “time” a friend again.

--Buck Cole, Texas General Land Office

Renewable Energy Resources

In collaboration with the AISD Science Department, ACCESS continued to give solar energy lessons in classrooms during the spring semester. Fourth and fifth graders were given a brief introduction to solar energy by discussing ways the sun is useful to our lives (food, heat, electricity, and even cars!). A small VW "Bug" was used to show how a common car compares to a solar car. Students were then shown how their "solar car" would be built from the components available. Working in teams of two or three, students assembled solar cars, and tested them outside. After the "race" students discussed what they had learned. Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills for fourth and fifth grades were addressed through these classroom visits. 180 students participated in the program this year.

Lucy Stolzenburg, Texas Solar Energy Society Executive Director Reports:

"These children will go shopping one day for a car, see the solar panels on the roof of all the cars on the lot and say to their spouse..."Ya know, I remember building and racing solar cars when I was in elementary school. I know how this works."

Comment from a teacher:

"Thank you so much for spending your time and knowledge with us! My students were excited to learn ideas about solar energy. Right now they are in groups (which are their "start up" companies) preparing presentations on various forms of alternative energies (solar, biomass, geothermal, hydroelectric, wind). They have to explain how it works advantages/disadvantages, history of it, and any interesting facts. I appreciate your time and enthusiasm."

Comment from a student:

"I learned so much about solar energy and the sun like without the sun the plants wouldn't grow and we wouldn't be able to see. I also learned that the government supports solar energy and you get money if you power your house with solar energy. Most importantly, I learned how to make a solar car."

"I enjoyed making the car and racing it, but my favorite part was when ... my group named our solar car. Its name was the Solar HAWK. I liked it because we got to do this without help. Thank you for your time. I loved how much you explained!"

Annual Program

The George Washington Carver Museum Cultural and Genealogy Center in collaboration with ACCESS to Learning, Inc. invited author Cynthia Levinson to speak about her book: We've Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children's March, telling the stories of children protesting segregation during the Civil Rights Movement. Levinson received the 2013 Jane Addams Award Book for Older Children. Preceding the presentation, guests were invited to tour the Museum's Sculpture Garden.

Field Trip Scholarship Program

ACCESS offered Five $200 Field Trip Scholarships this year! Teachers took their students to the following museum/cultural and educational sites: The Alamo, Bullock Texas State History Museum, George Washington Carver Museum, Natural Bridge Caverns, and The Thinkery.

Teachers Comments:

Natural Bridge Caverns
"Thank you so much for helping provide our students with the opportunity to experience the many wonders of our Earth!!! They completely enjoyed themselves and were such good little scientists and explorers. With your help again, we hope to provide the same experience for next year's first graders!"

Bullock Texas State History Museum
"One of my students went home and talked his parents ear off about the field trip."

"Our four Child Care classes had 2 wonderful days at the Thinkery. 21 students were able to explore the hands on learning the museum offers, and to connect it to our learning about how play promotes physical, intellectual, emotional, and social development in children."