Keshaun Woodward slowly slid on a pair of white cloth gloves and raised his eyebrows in surprise as he carefully ran his head over fur from a real tiger.
"It's really soft," the fourth-grader from the Ronald Brown Academy in Detroit said Thursday in the collections room of the in Bloomfield Hills.
"I really like lions and tigers and this really feels good because in other museums you really can't touch things," he said, realizing he felt something unlike he ever had before.
It's such experiences that Institute Director Michael Stafford hopes to duplicate for thousands of students in the Detroit Public Schools through an unprecedented partnership announced Thursday. Students in the fourth grade and higher will now have regular, fully funded field trips to the nationally renowned institute and customized instructional and hands-on experiences with the more than 250,000 objects it houses.
"We're ideally poised to help create, promote and sustain a culture of excellence in science education in the Detroit Public Schools and are anxious to get started," Stafford said while surrounded by 10 students assembled around a table of artifacts.
"I hope very much that this becomes a national model for how museums and science institutes partner with large public schools districts."
The full-day visits will incorporate two programs specifically designed for the students that includes lessons with the artifacts and new technology available at the institute. Cranbrook staff will also offer professional development opportunities for district teachers as part of the partnership.
Other highlights include:
- Year-round memberships to the Cranbrook Institute of Science for Detroit families through their respective schools.
- Access to roughly 300 other science institutes and museums that have reciprocity agreements with Cranbrook.
- Free transportation and access to the institute during "Detroit Family Day."
- Family outreach programs offered at Detroit schools to encourage science learning and family participation.
The initiative is funded by the institute and private donors intent on giving back to Detroit, and will not cost the district or the city any funds, said Roy Roberts, emergency manager of the Detroit Public Schools.
He called the partnership part of the challenged district's resurrection and said it was in the planning stages for months. He also said it had nothing to do with the recent closure of the Detroit Science Institute.
"It was Cranbrook that reached out to us, and I'm personally excited that they would offer their resources to our educators, our children and their parents to accelerate their growth and development in these fields," he said.
"This is a unique experience for the fourth graders, for the Detroit Public Schools, and we're going to take advantage," Roberts said to Stafford and the throng of media squeezed between the artifact lockers. "(Cranbrook) has much more than you ever afford and you said you wanted to help. We can't forget that."