Today at the Museum Studies grad student poster session I talked with Courtney Little about the content and activities she developed for school groups as part of her project. I loved what she did… so much better than the “circle the word” activity sheets some museums use as a substitute for properly planned follow up activities, but it made me wonder in how many schools will her work go wasted because teachers don’t use the opportunity to reinforce information learned at the museum.
This post by Rebecca Herz explores teacher interaction and responsibility and posits that exposure to museum content is not an ending..but a beginning… that teacher’s have to build on that content for students to get the most out of it. Regarding teacher involvement, interpretation, and follow-up, Herz explains that “in our current educational climate I do not think teachers understand this as their role in a museum field trip. Nor do they always have the freedom or time to do this follow up work back in the classroom.”
In just about every museum, school groups are a huge chunk of the visitor count and revenue total (either by ticket sales or gift shop sales). Having interesting and engaging pre/post visit activities is crucial and often is given less attention it deserves. But even if what you develop is outstanding…getting teachers to use it is an ongoing problem. How can museums address this problem? Can we manipulate students into pressuring teachers to perform? Museum interpreter to students: “I’m so glad I had the opportunity to talk to you today about <insert historical topic of choice>, we’ve given your teacher some exciting activities to share with you after your visit here… make sure you ask her about it when you return to school.”