Executive Summary from Students Working With WHM

Executive Summary


The city of Worcester, Massachusetts has a rich history. Worcester is the site of many inventions and firsts such as Shredded Wheat breakfast cereal, the first liquid-fuel rocket launch, the first pressurized space suit, the first National Women’s Rights Convention, and the popular 1970’s “smiley face” (Grosvener, 2012). The city’s fascinating story is being kept alive by Worcester Historical Museum (WHM). Founded in 1875, WHM is the only institution devoted to preserving Worcester’s history (About the Museum, 2013). Worcester Historical Museum has asked our group of Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) students working through the WPI Worcester Community Project Center to assist with helping the museum expand their exhibits by creating a design plan for a Worcester-themed, portable nine-hole miniature golf course. The target audience of the course consists of student visitors, families, and special-event attendees, however, elementary school children are the primary target audience. The course is meant to offer an engaging look at Worcester history and help WHM become a more prominent part of the city of Worcester.


Worcester Historical Museum is a non-profit organization that strives to preserve pieces of the city of Worcester’s vast history. The institution has been driven by its original principle of “rescu[ing] from oblivion such matter that would otherwise be lost” (“Museum History”). Worcester Historical Museum, like other museums, has suffered the financial consequences of the 2009 recession because funding for museums is highly dependent on the amount of disposable income within a population (American Alliance of Museums, 2013; Chiang, 2013). Concerns from families that historical museums are not family-friendly enough have potentially affected the attendance at historical museums as well (Reach Advisors, 2007). To address this concern, a valuable set of family-friendly exhibit guidelines, created in 1998, serve to help museums work towards this goal and can be seen below (Borun, 2013).
Characteristic & Description
Multi-sided “The family can cluster around the exhibit.”
Multi-user “Interaction allows for several sets of hands and bodies.”
Accessible “The exhibit can be comfortably used by children and adults.”
Multi-outcome “Observation and interaction are sufficiently complex to foster group discussion.”
Multi-modal “The activity appeals to different learning styles and levels of knowledge.”
Readable “Text is arranged in easily-understood segments.”
Relevant “The exhibit provides cognitive links to visitors’ existing knowledge and experience.”


To begin the exhibit design process, we had to identify the desired learning outcomes for the course as determined by WHM and relevant stakeholders. A learning outcome is an idea or concept that a user should understand or ponder during and after visiting a museum exhibit. To identify ideas for learning outcomes, we conducted semi-structured interviews with educators in the Worcester School System. Acquiring information regarding learning outcomes, themes, course criteria, and engaging course components was completed simultaneously.
While establishing themes for the miniature golf course, we focused both on our stakeholders’ favorite pieces of Worcester’s history and their opinions on which themes would be most valuable for our target audience. We conducted theme-related semi-structured focus groups with two elementary aged school groups at WHM, and we also interviewed Worcester teachers regarding theme ideas. We then compiled a list of themes that WHM staff ranked for us to make a final decision regarding what themes will be included within the course.
Worcester Historical Museum asked us to design a miniature golf course that is portable, lightweight, durable enough for adults to stand on, does not require electrical sockets, and does not need to be repainted often. We also needed to comply with codes and regulations from both the U.S. ProMini Golf Association and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). To develop and finalize our design criteria, we sent out email surveys to eight miniature golf course owners in the United States, in addition to getting continuous feedback from WHM staff, particularly Executive Director William Wallace and Exhibit Coordinator Vanessa Bumpus.
Our project group also had to discover what miniature golf course components are most appealing to our target audience. Some examples of miniature golf course components are hills, obstacles, and scenery. We held semi-structured focus groups at WHM with first and second grade students from the Worcester School System, and conducted field research by observing a predetermined exploratory group of children play through a miniature golf course. We sent out open-response surveys to various miniature golf course owners/designers around the country to gain a better understanding of what course attributes people prefer from a designer’s perspective. Through focus groups, interviews, and field research, we compiled a set of attributes that appeal to our target audience.
Finally, we revised and compiled all of our information to create a completed design for the course. We presented our draft hole designs to WHM staff and a group of second grade students from Worcester to acquire feedback and suggestions for revisions.

Findings and Recommendations

The design of this interactive exhibit went through many stages and was influenced by the elementary-age children, Worcester area public school teachers, and WHM staff whom we consulted. The primary groups with which we conducted research are children, parents, teachers, WHM staff, and miniature golf course designers/owners. Our project group made use of three documents to influence our project as well, which are the findings from PISEC, the Massachusetts Common Core of Learning (MCCL), and past surveys conducted by WHM regarding the Alden Family Gallery. Below we detail our project group’s findings.
Students should connect the themes of the miniature golf course to people and places that they have seen and learned about in their lives. Two groups of stakeholders, teachers and WHM staff, stressed the importance of students connecting course themes to what they have seen in their lives. Connecting themes to everyday life will make the course more appealing because the themes are relatable to the participants. In addition, golfers may also be introduced to new landmarks in Worcester that they may choose to visit or research after using the miniature golf course. This finding is further supported by WHM’s mission, PISEC, and the MCCL.
Students would benefit from utilizing problem solving skills and techniques to complete the miniature golf course. Problem solving techniques include understanding actions and reactions, hitting the ball at certain angles and with certain force, and scorekeeping. Individuals from two groups with whom we conducted research, teachers and children, supported this idea. We recommend that problem-solving skills be incorporated into this miniature golf course. Incorporating this within the miniature golf course will allow students to learn not only about history, but about general problem-solving as well.
Challenging holes, as opposed to easy holes, will appeal to our entire target audience. A challenging hole has multiple obstacles and hills, and the hole is not a straight hole. An obstacle is an object that is not a hill and that individuals must putt through or around. Individuals from four of the five different groups with whom we conducted research stressed the importance of incorporating challenging holes: children, parents, teachers, and course designers. Based on this data, our recommendation regarding challenging versus easy holes is to include many challenging holes and few easy holes to best appeal to the entire target audience.
Adult players will be interested in trivia related to Worcester’s history, and trivia can also educate younger players. Both parents and staff suggested the inclusion of trivia. Trivia will educate younger players while simultaneously entertaining older players. Trivia may also spark conversation between individuals. We recommend that the course includes a sign at each hole that contains information about the theme of the particular hole. We also recommend that some holes require putting into a correct cup or putting through the correct obstacle based upon answering a trivia question.
Light, sound, and movement will appeal to the course’s target audience. Individuals from all five of the groups with whom we conducted research, in addition to document analysis, support the use of light, sound, and movement. Inclusion of these three design ideas will add entertainment value to the course while simultaneously offering additional ways for individuals to learn from the course. Our project group recommends that the course should make use of lights, sound, and movement to appeal to our target audience and to support individuals with different learning preferences (Borun, 2013).
The target audience will enjoy objects that they can interact with on the course, as opposed to only including objects that they can putt around or over. Children, teachers, course designers, and WHM staff supported the inclusion of interactive objects. The idea of interactivity is further backed by both PISEC and past WHM surveys conducted regarding the Alden Family Gallery Exhibits within WHM. Consequently, we recommend that the course contains objects that can be pushed or pulled, including items that move when the ball comes in contact with them, to allow for interaction within the course.
The themes chosen as the most valuable for this course were developed based upon information gained from focus groups, interviews, and surveys with different groups of individuals: children, parents, teachers, and WHM staff.


This project was designed to offer individuals an engaging look at Worcester’s rich history while simultaneously assisting WHM in becoming a more prominent part of Worcester. With the inclusion of PISEC’s seven characteristics for a family-friendly exhibit, the miniature golf course will allow individuals of all ages to have fun while learning about the city of Worcester.