Collaborative learning is the foundation for successful learning. It is vital that all children have a firm foundation on which to base their education. This is best done in a collaborative environment, where the responsibility and efforts of learning are shared. This is the type of environment that I visited for my project.
My family and I visited the Discovery Cube in Orange County, CA. This museum has a significant participatory element. The entire layout of this museum includes buttons, pulleys, levers and other tactile learning. We spent about five hours here. The mission statement at the museum is very concise: Our mission to inspire, educate, and impact is brought to life through the cornerstones of our core initiatives
What are the core initiatives? The common core initiatives are a nationwide drive to require curriculum to keep up with today’s changing world. The common core is about setting higher expectations for our kids and knowing that they will live up to those expectations. Common core is inquiry-based learning, where children have to ask questions about problems in order to figure out a solution. The answers are not just given to them.
Like core initiatives at school, this museum is part of the collaborative environment. A society must collaborate to teach their children. “Librarians, teachers, administrators, parents, and children must work in concert. Why? Because we bring different strengths, abilities and interest to the conversation. Teachers are familiar with grade-level curricula, and they get to know their students’ needs and interests early in the year. Librarians are adept at finding the best resources, whatever the subject matter, or reading ability of the student. Administrators understand the importance of librarian-teachers collaboration and can provide common planning time and guidance. Add the enthusiasm and support of parents and children for a rigorous curriculum and all the stakeholders have entered the picture.” (Cappiello, 2012)
There is a lot of collaborative learning happening here. Schools, museums, libraries, parents, and children form a circle of learning. The most impressive thing about this institution is how they feed curious minds. There is nothing rote or boring about this environment. In addition to making learning fun, the lessons learned in this institution fit in to school curriculum. “When collaborating with schoolchildren, staff members should develop a process that fits students’ curricula and schedules.”(Simon) Museums form partnerships with libraries and schools in the form of field trips, summer reading programs in libraries, and summer camp workshops. Some students even earn school credit for volunteering at some museums.
I chose this museum because it was Inventor’s Week. There were stations set up throughout the museum where volunteers sat at tables to show off exciting gadgets. There were Snap Circuits, Makey Makey inventions, 3d printing, scroll saw wood cutting, the R2D2 club (with a life-sized r2) and other maker spaces.
I had very clear expectations about our visit to this museum. My family has visited several science centers similar to this one. My expectations were met & we had a very enjoyable visit. I made as many observations as possible. I observed families interacting with each other. Most of the children floated through the exhibits effortlessly. In most families, every member interacted with the displays. Even the smallest kids knew exactly what to do. My own kids were just as mesmerized, tapping screens, pushing buttons and pulling levers.
One of the things I love about these places is that you’re encouraged to put your hands on practically anything. There isn’t someone hovering over you telling what you can and cannot do. The staff and volunteers are very professional, but only help when needed.
There were many exhibits. Some were traveling exhibits and others were permanent. One of the temporary exhibits was an animatronic life-sized dinosaur exhibit. Some of the dinosaurs were interactive, with buttons to make them move, roar, and breathe. Some of them were life-sized, though one of the staff told us that the t-rex was too large for the display, and they had to remove this legs and tail due to the limited space.
The Dino Quest exhibit (a second dinosaur exhibit) had us walking around outside in a scavenger hunt looking for clues, fossils, and displays with an interactive wand. About half of the wands worked at any one time, but we still had fun.
A Harley Davidson exhibit let kids take a “motorcycle ride” with a screen in front of them. Wearing helmets, they were able to steer while looking at the screen. All of the kids there really enjoyed wearing their helmet and vests like real motorcycle riders.
There was an exhibit that focused on earthquakes in Southern California. My family of four all had a great time jumping on the pad just to see how high the interactive seismographic screen shot up.
My son and daughter went into a Science of Hockey exhibit to be hockey goalies. The idea was to look at the puck on the screen, and then when the animated player on the screen shoots a hockey puck towards you, a puck shoots through the wall. You are supposed to block it. My son handled the exhibit pretty well, but my daughter was blasted by pucks through her goalie mask. Fortunately, they were softer than the real ones, but she was not happy.
There is also an element of social responsibility taught at these institutions. The pretend grocery store had labels with nutritional information on them. It was up to the shopper to decide or not they picked healthy choices. In addition, labels also included product packaging information. Anything that was environmentally friendly was also labeled. There was a water exhibit that addressed ways to save water in a drought region.
In the vector control program exhibit, we wandered a pretend backyard to find evidence of rodents, mosquitoes and other disease-ridden pests. The kids were taught how to help prevent infestations. Kids walked around with an interactive tablet strapped around their neck. They answered questions, took quizzes and learned a lot.
Other exhibits included: NASA Mission Control Center, Mars Rover display, aeronautics, a pretend grocery store, a train room, a rocket lab, and a climbing wall.
All of the kids around us had an abundance of energy. Any place that lets them jump, run, and climb will keep them excited. Of course, at the end of the day, moms and dad alike are all droopy, yawning, anxious, and ready to leave. Kids start having meltdowns. I was exhausted toward the end of the visit. I couldn’t keep my eyes open, so I walked downstairs to buy coffee. I apprehensively asked the lady if I could walk around with my coffee in hand. She said of course. That surprised me. This was another sign that I was not a traditional museum atmosphere.
Children today are in a perfect position to gain the most out of connected learning. Teachers fulfill their curriculum requirements by visiting museums, museums gain community recognition as a cultural learning institution, and libraries connect to museums and schools where families can attend programs, support events, and access the reference materials needed. “Connected learning happens across learning networks including school, home, libraries and community centers…connected learning also supports the idea that learners achieve best when learning is reinforced and supported in multiple settings, providing opportunities for libraries to engage other institutions as partners in connected learning environments.” (Connected) Like many public library systems, mine offers various museum passes to check out. That is a perfect example of collaborative learning.
At the end of our visit, we had a great time laughing, exploring, and learning. My children don’t care that the museum satisfied common core standards. What they did care about was having fun, exploring, touching, learning, and just jumping in to do fun things. Maybe when my kids are older, they’ll understand the collaborative effect, but right now, they go on museum field trips with their class, sign up for summer reading at the library, and most of all, gain an interest in science and art at school, museums and home.
These interactive museums are fun, and I hope that these museum visits are a gateway to all types of cultural institutions for my kids. My hope for my kids is that they see value in many types of museums as they get older. Not every museum has interactive exhibits and flashing buttons to push. I am hopeful that there is a connection to cultural institutions that they acquire as they continue to mature. As long as kids have a firm foundation in learning, the collaborative environment will only strengthen their commitment to lifelong learning.
Cappiello, Mary Ann, Myra Zarnowski, and Marc Aronson. “On Common Core Cultivating Collaboration.” Slj.com. School Library Journal, 4 Sept. 2012. Web. 15 July 2016.
“Connected Learning.” Libraries Transform. Ala.org, 08 Oct. 2014. Web. 17 July 2016.
Simon, Nina. The Participatory Museum. Santa Cruz: Museum 2.0, 2010