Skip to main content

Museums and the Web

An annual conference exploring the social, cultural, design, technological, economic, and organizational issues of culture, science and heritage on-line.

Beyond the Chalkboard

People's Choice:
12 votes




Boston Children's Museum






Beyond the Chalkboard is home to the world's first free, online multidisciplinary curriculum created specifically for afterschool teachers, and it provides a model for how museums can deliver high-quality enrichment resources to this critical audience of educators. This curriculum offers hundreds of high-quality, engaging activities that were created over years of work with afterschool programs across the country, and it is being used in every state in the United States and over 75 countries around the world by thousands of educators, reaching tens of thousands of children every year.

Beyond the Chalkboard was created in collaboration with the afterschool community, and its features are a direct response to this audience's needs.  The afterschool field is in the midst of significant change – while once considered the milieu of only recreation and socialization, afterschool programs now face from parents and policy makers not just an expectation, but often a mandate to provide high-quality academic enrichment activities in their programs.  But there are no national or state frameworks for afterschools; no textbooks or university degree programs that are producing a cadre of afterschool educators trained in curriculum and program development.  And while there are a growing number of enrichment materials available, they are provided for a fee, and at prices that most afterschool programs cannot afford.  Beyond the Chalkboard fills this gap by offering exactly the free curricular resources that afterschool programs currently need, and it does so through a simple, concise design that addresses afterschool educators’ often limited time. 

The design of the site was influenced by the strong connection between Boston Children's Museum and the afterschool audience - the activities and resources on Beyond the Chalkboard represent decades of work in afterschool programs.  Every activity on the website was developed specifically for the afterschool audience; every activity has been tested in an afterschool program; and each activity has been evaluated by educators and refined according to their input.  This rigor has led to a collection of enrichment experiences that not only achieve high-level educational goals; but they are also proven fun and engaging experiences for children.

Each activity from Beyond the Chalkboard shares a pedagogical framework that helps afterschool educators develop high-level teaching skills; and the site offers useful tips for providing quality academic enrichment in the unique afterschool environment. Beyond the Chalkboard offers to educators a broad range of resources, including science, engineering, literacy, math, art, health and cultural activities. Each activity page also provides opportunities for users to comment on their experiences, extensions they have tried, new materials they have used and more. And registered users can save their favorite activities, create shopping lists for materials, track the activities they have done, and save each activity as a PDF to view, print and use offline.

Beyond the Chalkboard for the first time fills a need that no other resource does, and brings museum-style informal education into afterschool programs in meaningful ways.  It connects Boston Children's Museum to a community of users across the country and around the world: curriculum PDFs have been downloaded in countries on every continent, and in every state in the U.S., and all of this broad and growing usage has occurred through word of mouth.  This creates a stepping stone to something that has never existed before - a virtual gathering place for afterschool educators to visit and share ideas and information about providing academic enrichment experiences for children in their programs. 

Nominated By