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Museums & Learning: A Guide for Family Visits - April 1998

Complementary Learning: Schools + Families
Museums are a wonderful meeting ground for the shared interests of schools and families. Field trips and family outings to museums enrich what your children are learning in school and help them link it to the larger world. Schools and teachers, through field trips and other activities, play an important role in introducing students to museums and using them as learning resources. By working together, schools and families can help children make the most of visits to museums. Here's how:

Schools and Parent-Teacher Organizations can:

  • Establish a parent committee to help plan field trips to museums.
  • Research museums to find out permanent and temporary exhibition schedules, and how exhibition topics relate to the curriculum.
  • Form partnerships with local museums to further engage children in learning both during and after school. Museum staff may be willing to visit classes, present workshops for teachers, answer student questions, help students create an in-school exhibition, and share their expertise in innovative ways.

Teachers can:

  • Prepare family members to act as chaperones by telling them the purpose of the visit and how it relates to what their children are learning.
  • Encourage families to participate in the planning of field trips. Interested parents can be asked to scout their local community for learning opportunities by identifying local collections, collectors, and researchers.
  • Participate in local museum-sponsored workshops and programs for teachers that enhance the school curriculum. Use museum-prepared lessons and curricula in the classroom. Many museums have education departments or teacher services offices that sponsor workshops, offer free or low-cost materials such as posters, curriculum coordination information, brochures for chaperones, and audiovisual materials. Ask to be placed on their mailing lists.

Families can:

Build on and reinforce lessons learned in the classroom by going on family visits to the museum after school, on weekends, and during the summer.
  • Volunteer to help plan and chaperone field trips to museums.
  • Check the newspapers, listen to the radio, or watch television for special announcements and programs about exhibits and opportunities that reinforce what your children are learning in school or on topics of particular interest to them. Watch for television programs aimed at collectors and hobbyists.
  • Ask to be put on the mailing lists of museums and become a member of your favorite museum.

Chaperones play an important role in the field trip and learning process. Often school groups can visit museums only if parents and other adults volunteer to come along. Family members acting as chaperones help make the field trip more fun and enhance learning by encouraging children to listen, look carefully, and participate fully in the tour. Find out:
  • the educational objectives of the field trip;
  • what has been done in class to prepare for the field trip; and
  • special interests of the children in your group.

It's also a good idea to review the school's guidelines for field trips--check with the school office or the parent-teacher organization.

[The Museum Visit: Making the Most of It ] [ Table of Contents ] [ Bibliography ]

This page was last updated December 12, 2001 (jca)