School and museum, a real partnership

The school and the museum

Encountering a new place during a school trip is synonymous with change, surprise and emotion. If the school and the museum are complementary in terms of learning, the specificity of each makes the child move from the position of pupil to that of visitor. The educational school trip is an opportunity for new learning situations. In the context of scientific activities, and more specifically mathematical activities, a visit to an interactive exhibition offers new, original, aesthetic material that is difficult to design and implement in the classroom, whether for reasons of space, time, resources or skills.Based on devices that induce interactivity, the situations of discovery and awakening to mathematics proposed in these exhibitions aim to privilege the cognitive aspects, thus offering an alternative to traditional school practices centred on frontal teaching and the transmission of knowledge. In the exhibition, the child intervenes in the real, the sensitive and uses his body to apprehend his environment. Discovery is based on play and exploration, two natural behaviours for children.

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Photo credit: Fermat Science

The « museum » concept

It is necessary to define the concept of “museum” in order to understand its precise role from an educational point of view. 

« A museum is a permanent, non-profit institution at the service of society and its development, open to the public, which acquires, preserves, studies, exhibits and transmits the tangible and intangible heritage of humanity and its environment for study, education and enjoyment.» (ICOM1, 2010-2012).

Museum education is a set of values, concepts, knowledge and practices, the aim of which is to develop the investigative approach and to give the desire to know more.

For André Giordant2 , doing science should help develop: curiosity, the desire to research, critical thinking, creativity… 

For this, the scenography has a very important place in the museum, it allows a real interactivity for the visitors. For children, and especially for the youngest, experimentation and play provoke pleasure and relaxation, which encourages learning.

To choose exhibition themes, museums take an interest in school programmes. Indeed, the practice of the scientific approach is privileged in the programs. This is why innovative, interactive and digital devices are set up in museums.

The investigative approach allows students to have time to evoke, perceive and exchange ideas, as they are free to act, to speak, to touch, to play, to draw… All these actions create in them the need to learn. The proposed activities are done individually or in groups. They are based on exploration, research of information, play, which allows to build new knowledge.

The exhibition can motivate, give taste, leave a mark on the memory and why not give rise to vocations. The exhibition can also shake up initial conceptions, arouse curiosity and raise questions.  It offers a wide variety of ways of learning, whether by trial and error, imitation, manipulation or observation. The educational impact of these situations is not incompatible with their playful dimension. The transmission of knowledge creates a positive relationship with knowledge. 

In this context, the visiting pupils are active : they develop strategies and implement actions to achieve the goal they have set themselves, they look for clues, put forward hypotheses and verify them by confronting them with reality ; by doing and redoing. They learn to control their gestures and act on reality and finally observe the result of their action. 

During a short visit to a museum, pupils build up new knowledge. Certainly these pupils are having fun, they appreciate the environment that is offered to them, they are drawn towards dreams, wonder and are overcome by emotion. Moreover, the pleasure of manipulating the different devices is a source of excitement. The pupil challenges himself or herself, thus provoking stimulation, an emotion that is indispensable in learning. It is from this challenge that the motivation and concentration that will enable him to enter into a learning process are born.

1 ICOM : The International Council of Museums, founded in 1946, is the only worldwide organisation of museums and museum professionals. Its mission is to promote and protect cultural and natural heritage, present and future, tangible and intangible.

2 André Giordant, born in 1946, he is a biology graduate, first specialising in the physiology of regulation and then in the didactics and epistemology of science. He is best known for his new model of learning, allosteric learning model.

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Exhibition : Archéo, une expo à creuser

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Students at the museum…

Learning in the museum is constructed in different ways:

Pupils learn by doing, by trial and error, by manipulating freely, with or without instructions. At the beginning they simply act, without understanding the effect of their action, the element does not yet have a meaning for them. Little by little, by trial and error, they organise their actions, create a project according to their own logic, ideas germinate…

Pupils learn by observing, imitating and watching their peers. They compare the different manipulation stations, sometimes they choose the one they prefer and wait for their turn to act. Here they test what they have seen and then go further.

Pupils learn under the guidance of an adult, a mediator. The intervention of the mediator and/or the teacher will give rhythm to the discovery and renew curiosity. The mere presence of the adult, the interest that the adult brings to the activity gives value to his or her action.

Pupils learn by working together. Indeed, the pupil builds with others, it is richer, but also more difficult to find his place in the game. The pupil will often look at others before acting. Then, he will enter into communication with his friends, to organise the game and to confront them. The ideas of sharing and respect are necessary.

In short, the school and museum tandem is a complex but complementary machine, for the greatest benefit of the pupils. Becoming a pupil and a visitor from a very young age, in kindergarten, encourages learning and enables the acquisition of more skills. 

A win-win situation.

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Photos credits : Fermat Science