Below are ideas and implications derived from Fall 2014 interviews focusing on school visits to museums. This page will continuously change, as interviews are conducted. Ideas are not static; new information and ongoing discussion lead to new ideas.
1. Museums need to have and communicate clear outcomes for students. See this post for further thoughts on this.
2. School visits to museums should be longer – or at least, longer visits should be an options. Aside from a 60-minute tour, museums might offer:
- A worksheet for students to complete on their own or in small groups. Worksheets might be created with the goal of helping students learn to become independent museum goers. Or students could create something that helps museums reach out to their families and friends, letting them know what they might learn or do at the museum.
- A classroom space in which teachers can lead their own post-visit discussions, or work on related or unrelated material. This would allow teachers to reclaim a little of the time lost to a field trip, and/or to deepen student learning through connection-making and discussion. For museums without a great deal of extra space, this might be tables and chairs set up in an underutilized gallery space.
- A space to create. This could be in the galleries or the classroom, and might be open-ended materials exploration or a structured activity. When students create BEFORE the visit, activities should help them think about what they will see, and tours should encourage them to share what they made with what they are viewing. When students create AFTER the visit, activities should help them reflect on what they saw, and extend their learning.
3. Museums need to provide a space for children to eat lunch. Sorry, folks – there’s just no way around it. If the challenge is clean up, put the custodial work in perspective of all of the other effort and time that surround school museum visits. If the challenge is space, think creatively: is there an outside space that could be tented (and, if necessary, equipped with a heat lamp)? A nearby restaurant, office building, or other business that might partner with the museum, perhaps in exchange for a corporate membership or other similar benefits?
4. Museums should invest in teachers. Often, the same teachers bring their classes to museums year after year. Imagine if, the second time a teacher booked a tour, museums offered a free pre-visit classroom session, and resources to help teachers lead this pre-visit in future years. If the exhibitions are static, teachers might even be trained to give tours to their own students, if they wanted.