Last updated July 17, 2017 at 2:55 pm
Museums have always been a home to wonderment across all ages, particularly for young people, writes former science teacher Mark Drummond during Museum Week (19 – 25 June 2017).
Surrounded by lions, bears, and a giraffe, I stood slack-jawed and awestruck, gazing directly up at the skeleton of the largest animal to ever grace this planet suspended far above my head. To see me starting up at the blue whale skeleton above me, eyes glazed and motionless, I could easily have been mistaken for one of the taxidermied creatures that surrounded me in the National Museum of Scotland. That’s what museums did to me as a child – render me speechless and amazed, and they still do to this day. Museums, now more than ever, are one of the most important places we can go to foster our love and curiosity for the world around us. These cultural institutions are one of the last bastions of wonder left to us in age of ever-decreasing wonder.
That wonder is what every science teacher is trying to evoke within their students. So many of the things we teach in science classrooms are abstract, often complex ideas that are not intuitively easy to grasp or understand, even when broken down to their simplest components. Try as we might, there are only so many Youtube clips, animations, and creative uses of pipe-cleaners that can bring something from a textbook to life. To add to this, teachers will also always face the problem that, no matter what, there will always be students who just don’t care much for learning simply because they’ve convinced themselves, or been convinced by external forces, that learning isn’t for them. This is where museums can save the day.
Museum exhibits stand out, like a lighthouse in the fog. A beacon of curiosity that pulls us forward, drawn in to find out more. By taking students out of the classroom and into a museum, we encourage students to think about things in a different way,to become active, curious explorers of exhibits, and not passive observers of words in a book. The best exhibits in museums have always caused us to pause, observe and then move in to find out more. As technology progresses, interactive and immersive exhibits have become even more enticing, we’re not just observers of the wonderful but part of the wonder itself – we lay our hands on bones, run around in space, try to outrun Olympians, and discover anew the most exciting discoveries of human history. This is what education is about – stoking the fires of curiosity to drive us forward on a journey of exploration and few places will ever do it better than a museum.
The world is becoming less wonderful: children spend up to 12 hours a week on the internet, over ten hours a week watching television, and some sources even suggest that children spend six hours a day in front of a screen. This constant stream of information leaves us unfulfilled, lacking authentic experiences, and little opportunity for imagination.
As teachers and adults, we must encourage the young to visit museums. A teacher can never bring a blue whale skeleton into the classroom, a Youtube clip can never replace first hand experience, and a textbook will never capture our hearts and imagination in the same way that museums can.
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