Celebrating my dad and Chuck and Esther Abbott #MuseumCamp2014

My dad passed away four years ago this week. He was a man who was very involved in the Santa Cruz community. I can remember during my years growing up in Santa Cruz that he was busy volunteering his time as part of the Santa Cruz Redevelopment Agency and the Citizens Committee for Community Improvement. Two of the people he would often talk about in relationship to downtown redevelopment were Chuck and Esther Abbott. I think they actually came to our house once or twice for dinner. The Abbotts were equally concerned about the downtown Santa Cruz area and how to make it more inviting and attractive (the picture below is from one I took on the second floor exhibit in the Santa Cruz MAH).

AbbottsTogether, they worked with others to beautify the downtown area to attract more business and to also make it more appealing for people to live in downtown Santa Cruz.

As part of Museum Camp last week, I was part of a group that happened to select Abbott Square as their project. This caused me to not just reflect on the project at hand, but also on my personal experiences I had had with the Abbotts, and my dad. I have lived through the development of the Pacific Garden Mall (Pacific Avenue which was a project of the Abbotts and my uncle was part of the design process), the building of the town clock (I was there at it’s dedication on July 4, 1976, the nation’s bicentennial and was one of my dad’s projects), and the devastation of the 1989 Santa Cruz earthquake. Although I was not living in Santa Cruz during all of these times, I still felt the ripple effects of the various events in Santa Cruz and their impact on the community.

In researching Abbott Square and the Abbotts along with my teammates, I learned more about the history of the Abbotts and their impact on the community. I was interested in learning that Abbott Square had earned a grant to be transformed and that the vision is to make it a town square.

It was interesting in reading about the character of Esther Abbott (she passed away in 2008) and realizing that Chuck Abbott passed away when I was a junior in high school (1973). I did remember hearing my dad talk about how Mark Abbott, the son of Chuck and Esther Abbott, had died in a surfing accident and how the Abbotts had contributed to the development of the Mark Abbott Memorial Lighthouse Surfing Museum, one of the few surfing museums in existence in the world. My grandparents had pieces of art that Esther Abbott hanging in their house for many years.

Now, as I learned, Abbott Square will be transformed over the next few years as a place where people can gather and perhaps be a place where visitors may start or extend their visit in Santa Cruz (another earlier article here).abbottsquaremodel

In order to develop this as a place such as this, it will take additional funds. However, as I have learned from watching Santa Cruz over the years, and now as a resident, I have no doubt that Abbott Square will receive the needed funds to be transformed.  It will become the place that so many community members desire and it will become the vision of the Abbotts and others, like my dad, who put a lot of their time and effort into making Santa Cruz a great place to live.


Final Reflections on #MuseumCamp2014

As I have mentioned before, I am an educator and my expertise is in the field of online and blended learning and school libraries. When I originally say the “Museum Camp”  notice in my local city with the theme of “social impact assessment”, I thought it would be interesting to participate. Everyone attending had to apply and on top of that, there was a fee to attend. I felt honored to be accepted. Now, having attended Museum Camp, I have gained even more insight into the world of museums and the arts and how they enhance all of our lives. I enjoy visiting museums wherever I travel and also enjoy performing arts events. I have never been an “artist” in the sense of painting or drawing or designing things but certainly appreciate people that are.

As I have mentioned in other blogposts here,  here and here, as part of Museum Camp at the Santa Cruz MAH we were put into groups of 4 and guided to complete some type of experiment or treatment to a place in Santa Cruz, Ca. The experiment had to somehow measure social impact of the location or treatment of the location. At the conclusion of the camp, there was a time for reflection by everyone who attended. The various reflections that were shared included:

  • Small, simple adjustments to space can have big impacts (in the picture below, our group simply used colored masking tape to change a space and then observed this)
  • Thinking about how to assess an art installation or art exhibit is good to do ahead of time
  • The data collected in assessing an art installation is important to share with the community  and members of the museum community (note this mural installation in Brooklyn, NY that helped to reduce crime in the area)
  • Arts and museum programs do impact communities in a positive way especially when the museum and art programs involve the community










My personal reflections include:

  • Museum and art professionals are passionate and intense individuals who care deeply about their respective communities (and they are lots of fun, too!)
  • Any art installation such as an exhibit in a museum, a mural on a wall, a community performance or an installation in any public space takes lots of planning ahead of time (including how it fits with the goals of the museum and the overall community). One example of this type of planning is how the Santa Cruz MAH secured a $250,000 Artsplace grant in partnership with the City of Santa Cruz to re-imagine Abbott Square.
  • Assessing the social impact of the arts is time consuming and expensive. However, when it is undertaken, it yields results that are useful for informing the museum professionals about what is working as well as informing the community about the impact the arts are having. This results in increased funding, grants, and attendance, as well as a community that better appreciates the importance of the arts.
  • Similar to education research, the best arts and museum research is done over time and the results are analyzed and compared from year to year and communicated ongoing with stakeholders.
  • The organization of the Museum Camp could not have been better. The counselors and museum camp staff were all helpful, friendly, and accommodating as each of our groups figured out what we were doing.
  • The “action research” format of Museum Camp is something that should be replicated in other fields, including education, so that those attending actually produce a product of some type. This process caused each of us to understand the social impact assessment process in a much better way than a typical classroom and lecture type of learning. The schedule and process of the event can be found here.

Our #MuseumCamp2014 Project: Abbott Square in Santa Cruz

At the beginning of Museum Camp, each group of four people chose/location a topic to research. This was somewhat random in that the choice was modeled after a “robber’s gift exchange” where each group chose an object that corresponded to a number and Santa Cruz location. Subsequent groups could steal the object/location and each object could be stolen up to two times. My group had prioritized our top three choices and were fortunate to steal one of the locations we wanted, which was Abbott Square in Santa Cruz. Abbott Square is adjacent to the Santa Cruz MAH. The Santa Cruz community and the MAH have secured a grant to transform the space into a town square that can become a destination that can further add to the downtown Santa Cruz area.

As part of Museum Camp, our group (as well as the other 19 groups) developed a research question, hypothesis and methodology about the space and then carried out an experiment to test the hypothesis. Our research question was: How does transforming a pathway influence people’s experience of a destination?  And our hypothesis was: Novel alterations of pathways increase increase engagement between people and the place. We decided to use colored duct tape to alter the pathway and observe how this changed people’s engagement with the space.

The images below show the space with no treatment, the treatment (which also included a “selfie station” using the hashtag #mahfun), and the result.










Some people walked along the novel pathway and some did not. We found that children all enjoyed the pathway and often drew their parents and other adults into the experience.

03kid wparents on path











At the end of one part of the pathway, we set up a table where participants chose a token to answer this question: Since arriving in this space, have you talked or interacted with anyone new?  Those that participated in the polling station, selected a) No, none; b) Yes, one; c) Yes, a few; d) Yes, many.






We charted the results.











And in the end offered these conclusions:

  • Adding alterations to an interstitial space increases people’s acknowledgement and awareness of that space as evidenced through researcher’s observations of engagement by passers-by with the novel pathway.
  • Adding at least one novel change to an interstitial space can increase social engagement, but adding multiple alterations may actually decrease social engagement as evidenced by the respondents who indicated they did or did not interact with a new person within the studied space. (see graph #)
  • Youth seem more inclined to interact with the novel pathway and often triggered adult participation. Young people also spent more extended periods of time finding alternative ways of interacting with the novel path.
  • Adults unaccompanied by children, who did engage with the novel pathway, tended to pause, smile, and then choose to engage suggesting a possible impact with regard to state of mind.
  • Other variables not factored for in research design are considerations that may have impacted the findings – but are not accounted for including:
    • Volume of traffic flow
    • Timing of other events occurring nearby
    • Placement of data collection station

In particular this is potentially meaningful when considering the variation in function for the environment between destination as opposed to a passage on the way to a destination such as a scheduled event in a neighboring environment i.e. MAH or Vino.

  • Additional insight may have been gained if it were possible to compare total respondents and/or participants to total individuals and families that were in the space at the time of the study.
  • Revelation that the survey activity – polling at end where participants placed a token in a bucket to indicate their answer – was a form of engagement in itself.
  • Novel path was more engaged in than the selfie station (Hashtag was not used by any participants as tracked by keyhole.co).

Our team felt successful in implementing our Museum Camp project and in the process, formed personal bonds and understanding that will inform the work we all do in our respective places in Detroit, New Orleans, Orinda, Ca and Aptos, Ca.





Intense and Fun Times at #MuseumCamp2014 in Santa Cruz

Close to 100 people have gathered at the Santa Cruz MAH Museum around the theme “social impact assessment.” I signed up to attend because I live in the Santa Cruz area, enjoy museums and wanted to learn more about the ways that museum outreach and projects are assessed. There are people here from all over the world and U.S. Day one began with us being divided into 20 groups of 4 and then choosing a location around Santa Cruz to research and assess for social impact. This part was lots of fun because our group had to decide which location we wanted and then had to strategize how to select and steal what we wanted from other groups (the list of research locations are listed below). Many of the groups will be testing out their methodologies tonight during the Free First Friday activities. Anyone near Santa Cruz should come to the free museum events, which happens from 5:30-9:00 tonight and celebrates the opening of a new exhibit entitled “Poets, Symbols and Songs.”

The group I was randomly assigned to includes team members from Detroit, New Orleans and Orinda, Ca. We will be conducting our research this evening at the museum as well. We have spent the last two days identifying a research question, hypothesis and methodology about our location. In many ways, I felt like I was back in my doctoral courses and needing to define my research question, hypothesis and methodology, except this time,  our group of four had to agree on each process and then convince our counselor that it fit the parameters. It continues to be a wonderful action research process. In each of the processes I continue to think about the range of ways the different social impact has been assessed and how some of these ideas could be applied to schools. With all of that behind us, we look forward to executing our plan today and making our observations this evening. Join us tonight (Aug. 1) at the Santa Cruz MAH.

Here were some of the “real” museum projects with assessments that were shared during the “lightning round” yesterday.

Here are the range of Santa Cruz locations being examined for social impact:

  • Its Beach – a dog beach popular with off-leash advocates
  • Steamer Lane – At sunrise and sunset, Steamer Lane and the nearby Lighthouse field are gathering places for surfers, yoga-ers, hula hoopers, and people who want to commune with the ocean
  • Santa Cruz Boardwalk – a traditional beach boardwalk with rides, games, junk food, and tens of thousands of participants from the region
  • Boardwalk – free Friday night concerts at 6:30 and 8:30, featuring heavy metal band Y&T
  • Civic Auditorium – The Cabrillo Music Festival opening concert is at 8pm. The Cabrillo Festival features new & contemporary classical music for a primarily well-heeled, older crowd.
  • Louden Nelson Community Center – Featuring a new exhibition, Ageless Art, of art by adults in residential care. Reception with the elder artists 2-4pm
  • Tannery Art Center – The Tannery is a live/work subsidized housing campus for artists and art organizations. Several Tannery studios and galleries are open to the public with art openings from 6-9pm as part of First Friday.
  • Beach Flats Community Center – The Community Center in this lmajority low-income, Latino community is hosting an end of summer camp barbecue for families from 2-4:30. AMAH staff member who worked with the Community Center (Stacey Garcia) will be there.
  • MAH First Friday activities, 1st Floor – On the MAH’s ground floor, there is live music, an intergenerational art activity, and a history talk as part of the First Friday programming from 5-9pm
  • MAH, 2nd/3rd Floor – On the MAH’s upper floors, there are exhibitions and a sculpture garden.
  • Abbott Square – this plaza between the MAH and downtown is being redeveloped as a community gathering place in the coming year
  • Resource Center for Nonviolence – The RCNV is hosting an Indigenous Solidarity film screening and fundraising event at 6:30pm
  • street performers along Pacific Avenue – Despite increasing City restrictions on location and square footage, street artists continue to perform downtown
  • San Lorenzo river levee – The river levee is a beautiful pedestrian/bike path, but it is also seen as a dangerous home for drug activity and other forms of deviance.
  • San Lorenzo park – A family-oriented playground and park close to the urban core, the river levee, government center, and low-income housing
  • Downtown cinemas – There are four movie theaters in a small area–Regal, River Street, Nickelodeon, Del Mar–all of which have a different culture and clientele.
  • Downtown food and retail participating in First Friday – Dozens of restaurants, bars, and stores host art exhibitions as part of First Friday, with openings from 6-9pm.
  • Subrosa Cafe – an anarchist community space flanked by bike and craft-related community spaces.
  • Kuumbwa Jazz Center – The Kuumbwa is hosting a tribute to Jerry Garcia concert at 8pm.
  • City Hall, County Building, police station – all of these government buildings are in the downtown core

Learning about Museums at #santacruzmah Museum Camp

I am a lifelong learner and know I learn from a variety of people I meet on a daily basis. As most people who read my blog know, my focus and research is education, at-risk youth, online learning and blended learning.

However, I have always enjoyed history and museums and every place I have traveled, I like to find the local museum to check it out. I guess over the years, some of this has rubbed off on my daughter who is now working on her Masters Degree in Museum Studies. She can now tell any one about museums from around the world. In her studies, she has shared with me about the types of museums, how museums include or exclude people, and about the concept of participatory museums.

When I moved back to the Santa Cruz, Ca area (note that the image in my blog is of the Santa Cruz Harbor) a few years back, I figured I should check out the local Santa Cruz Museum or Art and History – affectionately called the MAH (Twitter @SantaCruzMah). Turns out one of the leaders in the participatory museum movement is Nina Simon, the Executive Director of the MAH here in Santa Cruz and my daughter had to read her book in one of her first Museum Studies classes. (You can read her book about this concept of participatory museums she published a few years back). After visiting the museum, I enjoyed all of the exhibitions at the time and in particular, the exhibit about the history of the Santa Cruz area because I actually lived through some of that history!

Now, I am going to be attending the Santa Cruz MAH Museum Camp which begins this week. The focus is on “social impact” so I will enjoy learning how education and social impact can intersect and impact the culture of a place like Santa Cruz. I am one of about 100 people attending the Museum Camp and we have been on a a private group Facebook sharing thoughts and ideas for several months. I think I will be the “museum rookie” because there are people coming to this Museum Camp from across the world – with one person traveling from Finland, one from Australia and others from across the U.S. I’m looking forward to learning lots in the days ahead from the Museum Camp experience.

In one of the articles we read in preparation (2011. Korza & Bacon), the author shares the diagrams I am sharing below in an effort to help evaluation and measure social impact. As I look at the diagram below, I can’t help but think about how narrow our evaluation in education is (generally, end of the year standardized tests), and how some of these areas may be good to consider in measuring the impact of education in the future. I think about substituting the question, “What difference does education make?” Some food for thought. (You’ll have to read the article).

More museum and social impact learning later this week (#santacruzmah).










Join the #BlendedTeacher #BlendedLearning Network

Join the  “Blended Teacher Network.”  It’s free! (www.blendedteachernetwork.org

Blended Teacher Network Image

The Blended Teacher Network (BTN) will be a place for teachers to share ideas, strategies and tools about blended learning. As you know, blended teaching and learning is much more than simply putting a computer in front of a student or a lesson plan online or uploading a video – it involves a pedagogical shift in teaching that causes students to become more engaged in their learning.

Many organizations and individuals have defined blended learning, written case studies, produced research and reports, and discussed its importance. At the heart of all research and reports regarding learning is the teacher. Teaching has become more complex as more computer and online technologies have become available. The network will help you to sort through these complexities of being a blended teacher.

The purpose of the BTN is for teachers to learn from each other about what blended learning means, to contribute to the complex field of blended teaching, and to validate your work in your schools and in your classrooms.

Join the network to share your expertise and then invite your colleagues. Meet, empower, encourage and help grow the network.

#BlendedLearning Research and Resources

The term, “blended learning” grew out of online learning and was first introduced in literature at the college level in 2004 and then at the K-12 level in 2014. The first K-12 online school opened in 1994 with the bulk of online programs opening in the mid 2000s. The first blended learning school is difficult to determine, but many suggest it was Rocketship Charter Schools that opened in San Jose, Ca 2007. It is important to note that the field of K-12 online learning began approximately in 1997 and the field of blended learning began approximately in 2007. Research in the fields of blended and online learning is emerging as you can’t study or research or evaluate something that does not exist. In addition, you can find ongoing research on my website here.

Listed below are resources that have developed in the field of blended learning.

Case Studies

Blended Learning Guides and Reports

Blended Learning Webinars

Blended Learning Videos


WebsitesTwitter Hastag for Blended Learning – #blendedlearning

Rob’s Tweets

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