Why moving lessons into museums could have long-term benefits for younger pupils

Two primary schools are shifting their classes into local museums to test the advantages of a different educational setting

Moving your lessons into a museum for a whole term might sound like a logistical nightmare − but this is exactly what three schools are doing as part of a King’s College project.

Two primary schools and a nursery are placing classes in local museums full-time for up to a term to test the theory that there may be social and educational benefits for primary children.

“It seems such an obvious thing to do,” says Katherine Bond, director of the Cultural Institute at King’s College London. “There is a long tradition of school trips to museums, but we’ve never come across anyone taking the entire curriculum and moving it all into a museum.”

The three pilot placements will assess the benefits and logistics of a partnership model that could be used in future to address funding issues faced by both the education and museum sectors, while also providing learning and audience-engagement benefits.

Cross-curricular links

Stephanie Christie, a Year 5 teacher from Hadrian Primary School in South Shields, has been based at Arbeia Roman Fort in South Tyneside since January.

“It has been interesting to see which subjects naturally link in with the project and which need a little more creativity,” Ms Christie says. “I would certainly say that I have adapted my teaching style due to the environment and the resources that we have available. I feel my skills in adaptability and creativity have really increased.”

The opportunities to develop cross-curricular links and to work in collaboration with museum staff have been key advantages of the project for Christie. While these benefits could be achieved through one-off museum trips, Ms Bond suggests there may be additional advantages that can only come from longer placements.

“I’ve been really struck by how many of the teachers have talked about seeing a dramatic increase in the vocabulary and communication skills of their pupils,” she says. “There have also been similar increases in social and interaction skills that come from being in a public place.

“We don’t traditionally work with children as young as early years, but we are finding that they are so sponge-like and adaptable at that age that the project is having a real impact on them.”

The idea for the project was conceived by architect Wendy James and developed in collaboration with the Cultural Institute and the department of education and professional studies at King’s.

The findings of the pilot will be published in Autumn 2016.

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