Thesis

Museum-in-the-classroom: enhancing social studies instruction through a museum/school partnership

The museum-in-the-classroom project demonstrates how collaboration
 between museums and schools can reinforce and enhance the sixth grade social studies
 curriculum. A combination of constructivist learning theory, historical critical
 frameworks, and the new museum paradigm, which describes museums as being places
 to work out meanings, create the theoretical underpinning for the museum-in-theclassroom
 project. The process spanned the academic year to cultivate critical
 perspective-taking and curator-like thinking. These skills are important tools for social
 studies competency and to uncover the interpretive quality of narratives of the past.
 Through a series of curricular interventions, museum field trips, hands-on activities, and
 the final construction of a school-site exhibition on ancient Greece, students began to understand the past in more fluid terms (i.e., more than a collection of facts and dates).
 Furthermore, after the exhibition was installed, students became docents to lower grades.
 As tour guides, students became competent in all the class research, not just their own.
 By combining the pedagogies of informal learning and artifact-based epistemology
 present at museums with the traditional classroom academics this study creates and
 effective template for future museum/school collaborative partnerships beyond the
 traditional field trip. Instead of seeing museums and schools as offering completely
 separate educational fare, teachers and museum educators could begin to build Dewey’s
 original school blueprint, where traditional classroom and museum exhibit space could
 exist side-by-side.

The museum-in-the-classroom project demonstrates how collaboration between museums and schools can reinforce and enhance the sixth grade social studies curriculum. A combination of constructivist learning theory, historical critical frameworks, and the new museum paradigm, which describes museums as being places to work out meanings, create the theoretical underpinning for the museum-in-theclassroom project. The process spanned the academic year to cultivate critical perspective-taking and curator-like thinking. These skills are important tools for social studies competency and to uncover the interpretive quality of narratives of the past. Through a series of curricular interventions, museum field trips, hands-on activities, and the final construction of a school-site exhibition on ancient Greece, students began to understand the past in more fluid terms (i.e., more than a collection of facts and dates). Furthermore, after the exhibition was installed, students became docents to lower grades. As tour guides, students became competent in all the class research, not just their own. By combining the pedagogies of informal learning and artifact-based epistemology present at museums with the traditional classroom academics this study creates and effective template for future museum/school collaborative partnerships beyond the traditional field trip. Instead of seeing museums and schools as offering completely separate educational fare, teachers and museum educators could begin to build Dewey’s original school blueprint, where traditional classroom and museum exhibit space could exist side-by-side.

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