Cultural Connections

Musings about my experiences, art, and life in Mongolia and beyond.

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Location: Ulaanbaatar, Tuv aimag, Mongolia

Native Chicagoan currently teaching in Mongolia.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Using Museums in Education

Using Museums as a Tool for Teaching
(originally published in UB Post, December 2007)

In the U.S., museums have become resources for teaching. Museums are places where we collect and display pieces of our world, our history and our views of the world and life in it. Museums help us to remember who we are, who are ancestors were and the nature of our world. Visiting a museum exhibit about dinosaurs, or seeing real ancient objects is far more exciting than just to reading about it in a book or seeing a picture. And although museums may seem a bit boring at times, there are ways to make a visit more interesting. Here are some creative tips to use museums in your teaching or just to make a museum fieldtrip more interesting if you prepare in advance.

You may want to pose some of these questions to your students before or during a fieldtrip:
• What is a museum?
• How did all these things get in the museum?
• Who studies things in a museum?
• What is an artifact? (tool, rock, fossil, dinosaur, etc.)
• How was the object used?
• How was the object made? (example: How are fossils made? How is pottery made?)
• How is one object different from the other? (example: How are a duck’s feet different from an eagle’s feet?)
• And more thought provoking questions like: Why did the dinosaurs disappear?

Make it an adventure!
Turn your museum visit into a treasure hunt. Create a handout with a series of questions. Here are a few examples:

1. Find a dinosaur with big sharp teeth. Write the name of the dinosaur. Why do you think it has big sharp teeth? What did it eat? Draw a picture of the dinosaur.
2. Find a duck. Look at its feet and draw a picture of them. Now find an eagle. Look at its feet and draw a picture of them. Compare the feet of the two birds. Why are they so different? Think about where they live and what they eat.
3. Find a painting of the God Namsrai. What symbols do you see? What animals are in the picture? What do you think these symbols mean?
4. Find a Deerstone. What pictures or symbols do you see? How do you think this was made and who made it? Draw a picture. What do you think the pictures mean? Write a story about the pictures.

Create a list of new vocabulary. If you are teaching English this is another good way to practice new vocabulary by using real objects. Walk through the museum and use the exhibits to teach the names of things.

After your museum visit, have students follow up by writing or presenting a report of what they saw and learned. Have them answer some of the questions as listed above. They can draw pictures of what they saw. They can also make copies or models of the objects by using paper. Or have them work in teams and make their own museum exhibit from small boxes and objects they make or find.

Finally, many American museums have education departments that have developed teaching resources. You can find more ideas and information (such as about dinosaurs) on some of their websites.
Here are a few:
American Museum of Natural History:
Field Museum:
Metropolitan Museum of Art:


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