I love traveling with my friends. My friends tend to fall into two categories: friends that drag me to museums to get my opinion on exhibition techniques and friends that hate going to museums with me because I point out design flaws. When I visit a museum I am always looking for subtle exhibition strategies that promote visitor interaction and I am always interested in label copy.
On Thursday I was in Washington, D.C. for the National Council for the Social Studies Conference. My friend took me to the Newseum and was anxious to hear my opinion. I have been to Washington, D.C. many times but had never stepped foot in the Newseum thinking it wasn’t up my alley. Turns out I was wrong! Very wrong! It is completely up my alley.
Everywhere I looked I saw clever exhibit components that would appeal to a variety of visitors.
Here are some of my favorites from the visit.
There were lots of opportunities for visitors to share their opinions and interact around the content. This board was one of my favorites because of its simplicity.
This box of tissues was in the 9/11 exhibit. They blended in to the exhibit so perfectly I barely even noticed them. I frequently make comments about museums not providing enough seating for visitors to reflect on content, now I will also be looking for tissues in exhibits that deal with difficult content.
And speaking of seating…the use of space here on this bench is so thoughtful. It makes the content accessible to younger visitors and ensures that even when you are taking a break you are learning!
Even the bathroom was used as an exhibit space. What a perfect place to continue the learning as you are drying your hands off. And, it was humorous!
The News History Gallery was one of my favorite spaces with a timeline of news. Hundreds of years of news could be found displayed in pull-out drawers. I loved seeing the progression of news media and reflecting on history. I also appreciated the great variety in news sources. Newspapers were not the only printed source shared in this space. There were also pamphlets and broadsides. I could have spent all day in this space.
I left the museum thinking of ways to integrate these informal learning techniques in the formal environment of the classroom and I have a few ideas.
- Promote interactivity and inquiry in the classroom with questions of the day, giving students the chance to voice their opinion on controversial or difficult topics in non-threatening ways. I know many of you already do this through student use of blogs and Twitter, even with sticky notes and morning messages. But, I know some of us struggle with discussing hot topics in the news. Taking an idea from the news and giving students a forum to voice their opinion in a kinesthetic way is powerful and can be a great discussion starter.
- Use every space of your classroom and school as a learning space, even the bathroom and cafeteria, or any space where your students may have a few minutes. I would even allow students to generate content for these spaces.
- Find the mistakes and share them. The bathroom space at the Newseum displayed printed news mistakes. We have all seen Jay Leno’s Funny Headlines. Encourage students to bring in news mistakes and crazy stories. It’s a fun way to teach grammar and journalism.
- Remember that our students need to reflect and process. It is so easy to forget this in our day to day interactions with students, especially when we are working to cover curriculum and meet the needs of our students.
- Make your classroom interactive. I am not talking about using collaboration or technology tools. Find areas in your classroom for students to open and learn, lift a flap to find out more, or slide to see. It doesn’t have to be high tech to be effective. Make your classroom a place where curiosity is encouraged.
- Create timelines with objects. I have written about this before in previous Museum Monday posts. But, I think it is worth repeating. Making tactile timelines helps many learners access content.
Next time you visit a museum look for methods that can be imitated in your classroom.