St. Labre High School students invited as guests of the Smithsonian Institution to experience a virtual museum workshop.

For eight St. Labre High School students and their supervisor, the answer to this age-old question was pretty exciting. They were invited as guests of the Smithsonian Institution to experience a virtual museum workshop for a week last June.

If you’re thinking the students simply walked up and down the Mall in Washington D.C. checking out the various museums that comprise the Smithsonian, you’d be off the mark. These students spent their time in the Smithsonian archives in Suitland, Maryland, where they were exposed to thousands of Native American artifacts specific to the Northern Cheyenne and Crow tribes. Each day was spent handling objects, photographing them, and writing technical reports about them. Along the way, the students were given lessons in photography, research, and writing.

If that sounds boring, nothing, at least in the minds of the students, could be further from the truth. Brittany writes in her daily log, “The experience has been wonderful! I learned how to make 3D imaging with a camera. I like how my eyes were opened to museum work because it opened up my horizons.” Jeffrey writes, “I chose Crow artifacts so I could learn more about my heritage and my background. I have really learned a lot about my culture and where I come from. This whole week I learned a lot about researching artifacts… studying them, and taking pictures of them.”

Their project coordinator, Cecelia Thex, a staff member for over thirty years at St. Labre, said she was gratified to see how interested students were in their own culture and other Native cultures. “It made the whole trip very worthwhile,” she observed.

Apparently, this group impressed the museum officials, too, for as Cecelia related, “The museum administrators came to me and told me they were thinking they’d like for us to come back next year.” Apparently, the Smithsonian administrators felt the $18,291 they provided to the St. Labre group was money well spent.

And that goes double for the students. As Annie wrote,

I had so much fun and learned and saw so much. I’m not ready to be done. This week has made me ponder what I want to be. This would be an amazing job.

Really, that’s what experiences such as this are all about. If any of these students can connect their daily routines at school with becoming qualified for a career they would love, then the goal of the program has been achieved. That’s what quality education is supposed to do.