SBR: Store window exhibits remain good way to showcase local schools

By G. Kent Stewart, School Admin Prof. Emeritus, KSU,

Store window exhibits have waned as a means to help citizens better understand their schools. Traditionally, these exhibits featured predominately projects made by secondary school students in industrial arts, home economics, science, and art.

The industrial arts have pretty much given way to more abstract applications of technology, home economics is now human ecology and emphasizes a lot more than just projects in clothing and food preparation, and the sciences embrace technology-based projects more than those depicting applications of the scientific method of problem solving. Art is still pretty much project-based and occupies an important slot in the curriculum.

While store window exhibits continue to defer to other options for showcasing schools, they are far from dead and forgotten. For example, let’s take an advertising lesson from our governmental and corporate counterparts.

Next trip to the local shopping mall, notice exhibits that grace the corridors. At our mall in Manhattan I took a little time to study an exhibit at the military recruiting booth. In only a few moments I concluded the military can be a good career choice.

The next exhibit to catch my eye was that of a photographic studio. The exhibit was well done and made the case for individual and family pictures. Another exhibit featured a new car with signage showing price and various payment plans. Each exhibit achieved its objectives– to inform and to teach.

Schools can still be showcased in exhibits similar to these. But the problem today is they are labor intensive and require personnel to commit time and energy that would probably be better spent in school. Rural schools don’t have access to malls, but they can effectively utilize store windows for exhibit space, and are usually welcomed enthusiastically by local merchants.

So, what do you want to showcase or what should be showcased to help the public better understand its schools? Remember, support follows understanding.

Pose this question: If you want to parade to the public what’s right with your school and want to share publicly outcomes that bring the most satisfaction among teachers and students what would they be?

You will receive more proposals than can be comfortably implemented. Ideas will include the most popular activities, curricular experiences, instructional outcomes, victories in athletics, evidence of learning, and instructional materials and equipment.

The exhibit can be as small as a single item in a store window or as broad as a district-wide event such as the one in Great Bend when the Board rented the convention center for an education fair. The exhibit represented everything about the school system from a primary pencil to a school bus. Salina had a similar school-wide exhibit at its mall as a joint venture with the school district foundation board.

Those events occurred when education priorities were different than they are today; but, the exhibits did what the boards hoped they would—enhance public understanding and generated a lot of support and good will.

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