Museum exhibitions are very carefully and thoughtfully designed. Their placement, the flow of imagery, the display – all curated to engage and invite. One can stop at any piece within a collection and learn primary information from the museum placard in front of them. This trivia introduces the viewer to the topic, offers a brief description and invites the viewer to learn more. Seeing that many permanent museum exhibits introduce the same topics that school pupils study in their academics, I find that we should be utilizing our primary pupil's connection to the material in a way that is immersive and participatory.
• A museum patron enters the section of a museum devoted to vikings. He views the first relics and wishes to learn a bit more about what he is experiencing. He wonders what era the pieces are from, what their purpose was, and a bit about the history of the people who made them.
• In a remote school miles away, primary students are learning about vikings in their class. Their teacher has equipped them with information, stories, and trivia that they eagerly take home to share with their parents.
• The museum works closely with the remote school to curate a specific time that the students can be available to teach museum patrons about vikings. Using video or conferencing, students in the class become digital museum placards, explaining the current exhibit to the patrons.
The students are invested in the content and feel empowered as involved collaborators. True community connection and engagement.
The level of engagement can be designed to meet the needs of the museum and class. Perhaps one half hour a week would be devoted to a live video conference available at the museum on a tablet, or perhaps the students record video snippets to be played at any time.
There are multiple opportunities to carry out a very simple, yet effective idea. Get the kids involved in the process, they will feel invested and connected. Simple.
Historic Environment Scotland, the lead public body set up to investigate, care for and promote Scotland’s historic environment carried out a very successful community/school engagement project that follows this exact approach. Check out Junior Tour Guide program here.