Day at the Museum: Field Trips for Kids and Museum Educators

Added to Medium, July 27, 2017

Before we know it, it will be time for kids to return to school. The highlight of the majority of the students’ school year is the field trip or two. Both kids and museum educators look forward to these field trips for different reasons. Kids enjoy time away from the classroom to play and to, ultimately, learn. Museum educators look forward to interacting with the students to show them ways to bring the material they learn to life, and to assist teachers in teaching the material the students learn in the classroom. To successfully fulfil our institutions’ missions as well as our schools’ expectations, we learn about what the teachers’ standards are for in the classroom they make sure to follow to help their students fulfil the requirements. By seeing how field trips effect kids and museum educators, we can understand how field trips are appealing and continue to be appealing for years to come.

Museum educators go through a number of steps in preparing for students and teachers’ visiting the institutions. Throughout the year, museum educators attend professional development programs when there are opportunities to do so. Museum educators from various institutions gather together to learn about methods that work in educating school groups. Also, museum educators use a number of resources to learn about what teachers need to know about education standards including Common Core Standards.

Teachers plan their school field trips during the summer for their students in the upcoming year. As museum educators, we prepare for school visits by promoting school programs to teachers with flyers so the teachers know what programs are offered. While at the Long Island Museum, for instance, I assisted in keeping a list of teachers in each school district up to date which is continually updated each school year. Then I use the labeling machine to put the address labels on the school program brochures. Once the school program brochures are distributed, teachers interested in booking programs call to schedule field trips for their students to participate in. After the programs are booked, the supplies are prepared to make sure there is enough for each type of program booked.

Once the preparations are made museum educators wait for the school groups to arrive and then guide the groups through the program once they arrive. There are many things for museum educators to consider when gearing their school programs towards the students and chaperones.

Museum educators can learn a lot about what field trips are like from the other side. Tara Young’s Alliance Labs article “Museum Fieldtrips From the Other Side” went into detail about what it is like as a museum professional to be a participant in the field trip experience. She shared takeaways from a field trip to Lexington and Concord she participated in as a chaperone. Young pointed out in her article a number of takeaways from her experience as a chaperone that museum educators should keep in mind when planning school programs including kids need guidance in making connections, the experience is about so much more than the content, a schedule is just a suggestion, and the skill of the interpreter(or interpreters) makes or breaks the whole experience.

As museum educators, we understand that when we teach school programs there has to be at least some flexibility to make sure that students not only have a positive experience but be able to learn as much as we can teach them. Also, when we treat our schedule as a guideline rather than the rule we are able to be prepared for whatever comes including but not limited to when school groups arrive late and have to leave the museum by a certain time, and technical difficulties. The flexible schedule also allows the students to have a special takeaway from the experience rather than focusing on the school program schedule. By attending professional development programs and training sessions, we would be able to be better interpreters to guide students in the interactive programs we teach.

Young also stressed that it is important to address the physiological needs of the students visiting museums such as water breaks when it is hot outside especially when the majority of the visit is outside . Museum educators need to allow time and space for teachers as well as parents to address those needs, which leads to the whole group being better able to focus on the trip’s curricular goals.

These takeaways are important because to understand the lessons our programs teach the kids need to interact with the material in a way that makes them active participants in their education.

Another way to be able to provide a memorable experience for students attending field trips is to think about your own experience attending field trips when you were a student. For instance, I thought about all of the museums and sites I visited as a kid and what I remember the most about each of these experiences is being able to interact with the activities as well as to be educated. As a museum educator today, I remember my inner student and translate that experience into my own teaching methods.

What do you remember about your own field trip experiences? Has it effected the way you educated school groups that visit your museum or institution? Is there an example of a day that showed how much impact your programs had on the students visiting?

To read Tara Young’s original article, click here: http://labs.aam-us.org/blog/museum-fieldtrips-from-the-other-side/

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