Museums as exceptional learning environments

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Natural History as Narrative:
Using Museum Exhibitions and
Artifacts to Teach History
Elizabeth C. Babcock, Ph.D.
Director of Teacher and Student Programs
Education Department
[email protected]
2005 ALA Conference June 25, 2005
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Objectives
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Explain why museums can be exceptional
learning environments for elementary and
secondary history students and their teachers
Describe The Field Museum’s object-based
approach to professional development for
educators
Explore how The Field Museum’s focused field
trip framework, professional development
initiatives, and primary sources have improved
teachers’ ability to teach history (and other
subject areas)
2005 ALA Conference June 25, 2005
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Reflections of an anthropologist on
museum-based education
© The Field Museum, GN89574_13Ac
2005 ALA Conference June 25, 2005
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© The Field Museum, GN90488_020d
2005 ALA Conference June 25, 2005
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Reflections of an anthropologist on
museum-based education
© The Field Museum, GN89576_12Ac
2005 ALA Conference June 25, 2005
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Museums as exceptional learning
environments
© The Field Museum, GN90507_67d
2005 ALA Conference June 25, 2005
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Museums are one type of informal
learning environments
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ILEs allow and promote enculturation of visitors
into social practices pertinent to that context (e.g.
how to experience a museum)
ILEs tend to use primary source objects as
teaching tools, rather than text
Participation connects learner with a particular
identity (girl scout, museum-goer, nature-lover)
ILEs tend to promote self-directed learning
--Paris and Hapgood, 2002
2005 ALA Conference June 25, 2005
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Museums are particularly effective
informal learning environments
Museums are “powerful learning institutions”
because “they afford unprecedented
opportunities to explore, observe and sense
a fairly limited set of contextually relevant,
highly structured, concrete experiences; all
within a socially and physically novel, but safe
environment.”
--Falk, 2002
2005 ALA Conference June 25, 2005
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Museum-based learning is
constructivist learning
If…
Learning is essentially meaning-making;
Meaning making is a social activity; and
The museum experience is primarily a social
activity;
Then…
The museum experience is essentially about
meaning-making, and museums are especially
powerful tools for learning.
--Vygotsky 1978; Hein 1998; Rowe 2002
2005 ALA Conference June 25, 2005
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Museum learning is context-dependent
Museum-based learning emerges
from the interaction of these three
contexts through time:
Personal: motivation & expectations, interest,
prior knowledge & experience, choice and
control
Sociocultural: within- group sociocultural
Sociocultural
Personal
Physical
Time
mediation, facilitated mediations by others
Physical: advance preparation, setting, design,
subsequent reinforcing events and experiences
2005 ALA Conference June 25, 2005
--Lynn Dierking (with
Falk), 2002
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Museums represent an exceptional learning
environment for inquiry-based learning
 Real world questions or problems
 Collaborative problem solving
 Multiple ways to demonstrate competence, often
through culminating project or artifact creation
 Requires scaffolding, or a learning framework provided
by the teacher that encourages strategic thinking
 Choice over learning topics
 Multimodal and multimedia information
 Pertinent technologies
--Paris and Hapgood 2002
2005 ALA Conference June 25, 2005
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Constructivist and object-based learning
theories have infused exhibition design
Object based epistemology (late 19th-early 20th c.)
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Arrangement is the interpretation
Assumes interpretation is universal and obvious
Arrangement reveals natural order
Focus is description and classification
Focus is on the object
Object based discourse (20th c. to present)
 Focus is interpretation and explanation
 Focus is on the relationship between object and visitor
 Mediating conflicting voices (curator, designer, educator, visitor)
--Evans, Mull, Poling, 2002
2005 ALA Conference June 25, 2005
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Professional development at
The Field Museum
2005 ALA Conference June 25, 2005
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Not all field trips are meaningful
learning experiences
• Research shows that the average length of time spent by a student at
any one exhibit case is just over a minute
• The vast majority of teachers enter museums with an inadequate or
no learning plan for the experience
• Teachers often feel ill-equipped to teach their students while in
museums, preferring instead to rely on museum “experts”
• The reality is that limited museum budgets preclude assigning a staff
person or volunteer to most school groups
• In 2004, 10% of Field Museum field trip groups received direct
education-related services with a museum educator, up from 6.8% in
2002. Still, this is a minority of groups.
2005 ALA Conference June 25, 2005
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The solution is to train teachers to create focused
field trips that link to classroom instruction
• Museum-based professional development is
essential to achieving this goal.
• Workshops, in-services, educator guides, Harris
Loan materials are the resources we use to train
teachers.
• The focused field trip framework is the
foundation of The Field Museum’s professional
development instruction.
2005 ALA Conference June 25, 2005
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The Field Museum provides a range of
professional development options for teachers
 Harris Educational Loan Center
 Teacher Workshops
 Customized In-Services
 Free Educator Guides to our exhibitions
 Strategic Partnerships
IIT Math and Science Masters Education Program
Museums and Public Schools
Field Ambassadors and Core Partners Program
Museum Science Partners
Cultural Connections
2005 ALA Conference June 25, 2005
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The Harris Loan Center provides free
materials for use at schools
Items are primary sources
Free in-services on how to register and use the
program
 Over 1000 items for loan including experience
boxes, exhibit cases, audiovisual materials, and
children’s books
In 2004, 178,670 teachers and students were served
and 3500 items were borrowed
2005 ALA Conference June 25, 2005
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Harris Loan examples: Dinos and
Their Times
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Harris Loan examples: Cover Your
Head
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Harris Loan examples: Southwest
Archaeology
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Teacher workshop and in-service
examples
Using Primary Sources in the Classroom
Creation Stories from Around the World
Biodiversity in the Classroom
Destination: Reading
Math In-service: How to use the botany hall to teach the
Fibonacci sequence
Art In-service: How to use the Northwest Coast Hall to
teach primary colors, shapes, symmetry, etc.
2005 ALA Conference June 25, 2005
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Examples of educator guides and
on-line resources
Island Biodiversity: An Educator Guide to Traveling the
Pacific
Educator Guide to Machu Picchu
Educator Guide to What is an Animal?
Educator Guide to Underground Adventure
[email protected]
On-line exhibitions
Sue the T.rex website
2005 ALA Conference June 25, 2005
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Exploring the focused field trip
framework
2005 ALA Conference June 25, 2005
© The Field Museum, GN87329_6c
© The Field Museum, GN90551_16D
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The focused field trip framework facilitates
inquiry-based learning using primary sources
Prescriptive model, (not simply a list of activity ideas,) for structuring
a field trip unit that includes a pre-, during, and post-field trip
component
Provides in-depth guidance for structuring different modes of
interaction with “objects behind glass” as well as interactive museum
exhibitions
Allows for multiple learning styles (Gardner 1983) and group sizes
Allows for increasing levels of complexity in learning-analysis,
synthesis, and evaluation (Bloom 1956)
Transferable to any museum setting or informal learning environment
2005 ALA Conference June 25, 2005
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The focused field trip includes a pre-,
during, and post-visit experience
Pre-visit
Post-visit
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Pre-, during, post-field trip activities
create a complete learning experience
© The Field Museum, GN90551_16D
2005 ALA Conference June 25, 2005
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Pre-, during, post-field trip activities
create a complete learning experience
© The Field Museum, GN87329_6c
2005 ALA Conference June 25, 2005
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The focused field trip framework outlines nine
modes of interaction with primary sources
Mode of
interaction
Descriptive
verbs
Search and
find
Identify, locate
Scavenger
hunt
Recreate the
object
Sketch, draw,
sculpt, photograph
Scrapbook,
photo, picture
Describe
Write, discuss
Sample activity
Recommended
group size
Individual, pair
Individual
Essay, poem, word
Pair, group
drawing, class debate
2005 ALA Conference June 25, 2005
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The focused field trip framework cont’d.
Mode of
interaction
Descriptive
verbs
Sample activity
Compare and
contrast
Compare,
contrast
Venn diagram,
chart, graph
Categorize
Match, label,
differentiate, group
Hypothesize
Test, collect evidence,
predict, generalize
Concept map, experience
chart, create a collection
Problem-based
worksheet; hands-on
experiment
2005 ALA Conference June 25, 2005
Recommended
group size
Individual, pair
Individual, pair,
group
Individual, pair
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The focused field trip framework cont’d.
Mode of
interaction
Descriptive
verbs
Observe and
record
Fact-find, take
notes, research
Create a
narrative
Tell a story
Construct an
argument
Reason, collect
evidence, sequence
Sample activity
Recommended
group size
Fill-in-the-blank
Individual, pair
worksheet, note cards
Role play, drama,
creative writing, create
your own exhibit
Individual, pair,
group
Flow charts, sequence Individual, pair,
charts, logic games
group
2005 ALA Conference June 25, 2005
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A Case Study: Northwest Coast and
Arctic Peoples Hall
 Hall contains hundreds of artifacts from Northwest Coast
and Inupiat communities, collected at the turn of the
century.
 Unique cross-cultural teaching resource because the same
curatorial framework is applied to two culture areas which
are displayed side by side
 Setting for a number of professional development
workshops on nature/culture interactions and a regular
workshop offered each year called Using Primary Sources
2005 ALA Conference June 25, 2005
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A Case Study: Northwest Coast and
Arctic Peoples Hall
© The Field Museum, A109291c
2005 ALA Conference June 25, 2005
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A Case Study: Northwest Coast and
Arctic Peoples Hall
© The Field Museum, A109805c
2005 ALA Conference June 25, 2005
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A Case Study: Northwest Coast and
Arctic Peoples Hall
Themes typically addressed with teachers while using this
exhibition:
How primary sources are not just documents, but objects
 How to “read” objects for insights into nature, culture
NAGPRA
 Roles and responsibilities of museums in cultural
representation, conservation and collection
 Interrelatedness of culture/nature
 How to teach cross-cultural themes and create a sensitive
framework for cultural comparison
2005 ALA Conference June 25, 2005
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Focusing a field trip in the Northwest
Coast/Arctic Peoples Hall
 Teachers are given an overview of basic cultural
information about the two groups represented.
Teachers are taught how to use objects to spark inquiry
 They are introduced to the focused field trip framework.
 They are provided with examples of how to use the
framework and are given an opportunity to practice in
small groups and report back.
2005 ALA Conference June 25, 2005
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Sample field trip activities for the NW
Coast Hall, mapped to the framework
 Search and Find
The raven exists on many artifacts in the Northwest Coast
Hall and is an important icon in Native American art. See
how many ravens you can find in drawings and carvings on
everyday objects and tools, as well as portrayed on
costumes and masks.
 Recreate the Object
Sketch your own Raven, Wolf, or Bear mask, using those
you see in the exhibition as inspiration.
2005 ALA Conference June 25, 2005
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Sample field trip activities for the NW
Coast Hall, mapped to the framework
 Hypothesize
Based on your examination of the materials used to make the objects in
the exhibition, and the plants and animals represented in them, write a
description and/or draw a picture of what the ecosystem in that area
must be like. Then look for evidence supporting or refuting your
hypothesis in some of the films and photographs in the exhibition.
 Create a narrative
Now that you have studied some creation myths and looked at material
objects depicting different Northwest Coast legends, see if you can
write your own creation myth for the Northwest Coast people that uses
some of the same symbolism and key characters.
2005 ALA Conference June 25, 2005
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Object-based learning at the Museum can
be extended with the Harris Loan program
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Harris Educational Loan Program, cont’d.
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Observations
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Teachers are not necessarily familiar with the
concept of primary sources and how to use them
While it may be common sense to librarians and
anthropologists that objects are imbued with meaning
and “tell stories,” this is a new idea to some teachers.
 While it may be common sense to exhibit designers that
exhibits tell stories with objects, this is also a new idea to
some teachers.
 Real artifacts and specimens represent an essential
teaching resource that can be effectively combined, but
not replaced, by digital media.
2005 ALA Conference June 25, 2005
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An “anthropological approach” to teacher
education has been helpful in…
 Identifying teacher and student needs
 Modeling human behavior to create the focused field trip
framework
 Incorporating anthropological concepts into new
education materials and teacher training
 Educating teachers about ethical responsibilities re.
representation of “the other”
Explaining the cultural diversity with the theme of
“Common Concerns, Different Reponses”
2005 ALA Conference June 25, 2005
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