The Future of Museums: Museum Schools
By Kathleen Watkin, MAS Museum Advisor
Traditionally, museums and schools are often linked by one-off field trips or educational presentations. During these interactions the main goals are often to introduce students to a museum environment, its general history, stories and the collections the museum has to offer. One way that Museums are expanding their connections to schools is through the introduction of Museum Schools.
Museum Schools go beyond the field trip and incorporate an extension of classroom learning where by students venture to a museum (or in some cases, the museum comes to them) for in-depth interactions with its exhibition and artifacts. Commonly called “Learning Expedition,” teachers work with museums to create focused objectives tailored directly to a specific unit or lesson plan to illustrate the importance of museums as a learning space. This process embeds the museum into the core of the student’s daily work in a unit.
For the majority of Museum Schools, the museum process of research, writing text, artifact handling and exhibition design are used as the key benchmarks for exploration and study. Experience journaling is also incorporated as it encourages students to slow down, observe, reflect and make connections to the world. Additionally, most museum schools hold an “Exhibition Night” to demonstrate and display their learning. These events often resemble the museum exhibition process.
The Museum School projects are successful because (they):
- Bring students, teachers, and museums together to create shared educational experiences
- Create a stronger sense of local community engagement, building a deeper appreciation of the history, art and culture
- Provide teachers with ideal environments for experiential and cross-curricular learning
- Reduce barriers that prevent youth from engaging with our local heritage
- Enable students to develop writing, problem solving and critical thinking skills.
- Students make real-life applications of what they learn in school
- Allow students to gain a deeper understanding through experiential learning and periods of observation and reflection
- Students are exposed to various careers related to history, science, art, health care and education, giving them a heightened awareness of career choices within the community
- Students, some of whom may not otherwise have the opportunity, are given the chance to explore and discover the magical world of museums in their community
- Provide students, teachers and volunteers a heightened awareness and better understanding of the museum’s collection and mandate
- Museums benefit from increased exposure and greater understanding of their educational and cultural value
- Museum School helps to build current and future audiences which increases utilization of the site
- Adult volunteers assist with supervision of students and engage them in small group activities. Many have commented on how rewarding it is to see the students thrive with the additional adult support
- Volunteers become engaged and learn about the curriculum areas being presented
- Volunteers gain knowledge about the museum site, helping them to be more connected to their community
Museum schools bridge the gap between schools and museums. They are sites and collaborations where distinctions between formal and informal learning blur and real world, were meaningful learning is promoted. Museum School engage the community in becoming involved through the education of the younger generations.
Note: For the best Canadian example of a Museum School see Museum School London
For more Information on the connection between Museums and Schools, please see Making the Connection between Museums and Education: A living document for educators which was developed to help museums and educators to connect between the curriculum and social justice issues that are affecting your world today. This workbook was created to connect museums with educators through fun, engaging activities discussion and resources that link the two entitles together to help education and inform today’s youth. 60 pgs; 2018. (Member Price: $15 Non-Member Price: $20)
For More Information and Examples of Museum Schools:
Centre for the Future of Museums. “Trending Now: Museum Schools.” Websites: http://futureofmuseums.blogspot.ca/2015/09/trending-now-museum-schools.html
“Museum Schools London.” Website: http://www.londonculture.ca/things-we-do/museum-school-london
Museum Questions. “Exploration: Schools and Museums.” Website: https://museumquestions.com/exploration-schools-and-museums/
“National Association of Museum Schools.” Website: http://www.museumschools.org
Nova Scotia Museums. “Toolbox for Museum School Programs.” Website: https://museum.novascotia.ca/toolbox
Royal Ontario Museum. “Learning.” Website: http://www.rom.on.ca/en/learn/school-visits