Sunday, July 6, 2014

Making Museums Magical for Kids

During the summer, most teachers I know spend at least some time planning for the next school year.  My favorite “planning” to do during the summer is field trip planning, because it means I get to tour cool places I’d like to take my students to – often with my own kids in tow.  Here are some of my favorite field trip locations, that can be found in most every community, as well as a list of content connections you can make for your students.  Often as teachers we only include field trips in our science and social studies, but there are lots of reading, writing and math connections that can be made in these locations as well.  I am going to share one type of field trip a week and ideas for making curriculum connections with each field trip.
Educational Benefits of a Field Trip - Benefits of a field trip - curriculum connections for reading, writing, math, science and social studies - from Heidi Raki of Raki's Rad Resources
Museums:  Science museums, natural history museums, art museums, local history museums etc.  Any museum, no matter how small, can provide a great learning experience for children.  Children’s museums gear their exhibits towards the interests and curriculum of children, and if there’s one in your area, you should definitely look it up.  However, don’t be scared to do regular museums.  I have walked through some of the fanciest art museums with a group of small children.  Set the rules ahead of time, let them know that this is a “look, but don’t touch” museum, and take plenty of time to TALK to the kids about what they are looking at.
Reading:  Any Magic School Bus or Magic Tree House book could possibly lead to great museum connections.  We read Vacation Under a Volcano before going to see the Roman coins and figures museum and Dinosaurs Before Dark before going to the local dinosaur exhibit.  Historical fiction stories also provide great connections.  One of my favorite museum memories is going to a local history museum with students right after completing the book Mister and Me and watching my students get enthralled with studying the old Singer sewing machines that had been a large part of the novel.
Educational Benefits of a Trip to the Museum - curriculum connections for reading, writing, math, science and social studies - from Heidi Raki of Raki's Rad ResourcesWriting:  Who hasn’t seen Night at the Museum?  Have kids write about what would happen if the exhibits came to life.  Create a brochure advertising the wonderful exhibits at the museum, or have students write persuasive letters to find more funding for an exhibit they would like to see added.
Math:  Elapsed time is a great activity to work on in museums, as so many exhibits will be marked with a date of creation.  Can students figure out how old each exhibit is?  Children’s museums often have exhibits with a focus on 3-dimensional shapes or building with odd shaped blocks.
Science:  There are so many science museums out there with exhibits on everything from paleontology to meteorology to various forms of technology.  Even art museums can give you a lot to talk about as you look at different substances used to create art and the engineering that goes into sculptures.  I always include a trip to a museum with old cars or trains in my Machines unit!
Social Studies:  Archeological history, local history, country history, ancient history, there is so much history that can be explored in museums.  Additionally, many museums include ancient coins and materials used in economies or daily living.  When I taught my Africa unit, the kids were thrilled to look at coins from all over Africa at a local museum. 
To make field trips more educational, I often use graphic organizers and other activities to keep my students focused.  Read more about the specifics in this blog post: Field Trips Aren’t Just For Fun.  Be sure to stop by next week for another Field Trip Curriculum Connection.
What is your best field trip idea?
Heidi Raki of Raki's Rad Resources