As a new school year starts, we look forward to welcoming our school and educational visitors again after the summer break.
With over 600,000 booked educational visitors a year coming to us across the Science Museum Group, schools and teachers are a really important and influential audience for us. Teachers are central to student’s science education and engagement, but they are also the main gateway to families who may not ordinarily consider visiting our museums.
One of the dimensions of science capital is participating in out of school learning experiences. This has made us reflect on how we can work with schools and teachers to help them make the most of our museum experiences.
So, here is a brief overview of just some of the different ways that we work with teachers through our museums.
- Supporting school/ educational visits
For teachers, our museums are most frequently associated with school visits and there are many different reasons why they take their students to a museum. Our learning support teams are an integral and important resource, supporting teachers with practical information and ideas to plan a successful visit to the museum.
We recently conducted some research with our teachers which highlighted to us that they have varying levels of confidence about organising out of school visits and awareness of the experiences that we offer.
We found that approximately two thirds come for curriculum-focused visits, the rest for a more general experience. We also found from wider research that teachers often only bring their higher ability/ top set students, and see a visit to a museum as a one-off experience that is not embedded into their wider teaching.
We have teacher advisory panels who are actively involved in formative and summative evaluations of our exhibitions, resources and website development. These insights help us to develop ideas which will support education groups to maximise the experiences that we offer.
The aim of our SMG learning resources is to enable our visitors to make the most of our museum offer – to spark curiosity in science and give confidence in using the museum effectively. Our resources for schools and teachers fall broadly into 3 core areas:
- Pre-visit – to help prepare and build anticipation and confidence for a museum experience.
- During visit/ onsite – to create excitement and help visitors to explore our museum and make the most of the learning opportunities that we have.
- Post visit – to continue the learning journey and extend experiences back into the classroom or home.
Our resources are all available on our museum websites and through external resources websites including TES, STEM eLibrary and other sites which are commonly used by teachers. We will be launching a new dedicated website area for teachers with all our SMG resources in October 2017.
- CPD training
We currently deliver courses to around 500 teachers a year nationwide. Our face to face courses share and communicate our approach to science engagement and the learning opportunities beyond the classroom. They have recently been redeveloped to incorporate our science capital research principles. The courses are available for early years/ primary teachers and secondary teachers. Our core course offer includes:
- Science engagement. Sharing our approach to creating engaging science learning experiences.
- Science beyond the classroom. How to make the most of learning outside the classroom experiences.
- Contemporary science discussion for the classroom. Ideas for planning and facilitating engaging classroom discussions about contemporary science.
- Events & Communication
Schools and teachers are not an easy audience to reach so we use a variety of different events and communication platforms, as well as establishing partnerships with teacher training organisations such as Teach First and universities. Our events and communication methods include:
- Teacher Zone and networking events – held 3 times a year, these are dedicated events for teachers where we can share new resources, bitesize training courses and showcase our offer. They are attended by over 1,000 teachers a year.
- ScM E newsletter – Monthly updates of news of upcoming exhibitions, resources and events.
- Twitter and social media – Our @NRMLearning and @SM_learn share resources, ideas, conversation and news for teachers and educators.
- Gallery special events – exclusive opening events for teachers to visit and see new galleries before they open to the public. Special discounts and free tickets are also available for teachers to visit our paid for exhibitions and experiences.
Beth Hawkins, Learning Resources Projects Manager, Science Museum