School visits to museums are remarkably inefficient.
For a museum, reaching students for a 60-minute lesson requires: full- or part-time staff to schedule trips and train educators, staff or volunteers to lead tours, and space to greet groups and store belongings. School visits might also require security and custodial staff to ensure that the museum remains clean and safe, as well as education, marketing, editorial, design and IT staff to reach out to schools and prepare related materials. Meanwhile, museum educators often get frustrated that teachers cancel trips at the last minute, do not use pre- and post-visit materials provided, or do not support the learning goals identified by museums.
For schools, a 60-minute museum visit means a full day of instruction lost in the classroom. Often buses are expensive. And schools scramble to find places to eat lunch, as most museums do not provide a lunch space.
Why do we do this? Why should schools visit museums? Why do museums expend so much effort on this particular population?
It is my contention that school visits to museums are important, but need to be rethought and redesigned. In order to think through the complexities of these programs, during Fall 2014 I am conducting a number of interviews with museum educators, classroom teachers, and others who might shed light on school visits to museums.