On the Go: New York Transit Museum Sparks Creative Lessons for Diverse Content Areas

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Whether you have children or students obsessed with anything that moves (i.e. trains and buses), teach about the turn of the 20th Century, or are looking for an awesome museum that is off the beaten path . . .  The New York Transit Museum in Brooklyn, New York is the place to go.  

My family and I spent the afternoon exploring throughout this hands-on museum learning about history of the New York City Transit from omnibus to elevated trains to trolleys to the subway.   Did you know that the IRT (Interborough Rapid Transit System) began constructing the first subway line in 1900 and in 1904 the first subway line carried as many as 100,000 people on its very first day!  Most of the subway system that is in place today was built from 1916 to 1931. Today, New York City subway lines are one of the most extensive and busiest in the world.

The mission of the New York Transit Museum is ” to collect, exhibit, interpret, and preserve the history, sociology, and technology of public transportation in the New York metropolitan region, and to conduct research and educational programs that will make the Museum’s extensive collection accessible and meaningful to the broadest possible audience.”

But the museum is not all history, there were science connections with an exhibition on Electricity.  From a math standpoint, there is also an exhibition about the tokens.  At one time, it only cost a dime to ride the subway!  For a music connection, Michael Jackson’s “Bad” video was filled just a few blocks in a nearby subway station twenty five years ago. 

Hands down, the best part of museum happens to be the vintage subway cars.  The lower level includes more than a dozen subway cars from the Brooklyn Union Elevated Car, to the Money Train and more.

The museum’s website offers the history of the transit system, lesson plans for teachers, and historical documents on the teacher resources webpage.  Additional online activities include Gallery talks, magnetic transit poetry, and transit artifacts .  The museum is available for school trips and open to the public Tuesdays through Sundays.


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