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Making a Trip to the Museum Meaningful

by Annaliese Newmeyer

Trips to the museum are fun, thrilling and can be educational, but most activities tend to be geared to children over the age of five.  To further a study of Lions in our classroom, we took a trip to the Field Museum.  It was the winter, it was too cold to go to the zoo, so the Field Museum was the next best choice.  They have an amazing African exhibit that features large taxidermied animals found in Africa, including lions, zebras and antelopes.  When we went to the Field Museum to prepare for the trip and outline an agenda, we asked the information desk what activities they have to offer 3-5 year olds.  Their response was a coloring sheet.  We were offended; our kids can do more than just color in the lines!  So we developed our own worksheets.  One worksheet asked the children to count how many animals were in each family unit, spell the name of the animal and guess which animals were the mom, dad, the children and why they thought this.  The youngest group of kids took pictures of themselves next to the animals and guessed if they were bigger or smaller than the animals (comparing sizes).  The teachers also created a map of the area and the children had

to draw a path to find different animals.  It ended up being educational for both the children and the parents and was more than just coloring.

I tell this story because it reminds me not to limit myself or my students to what other people expect.  It also reminds me that learning can be found in any space, inside or outside of school.  What made our field trip fun was that we were all learning together.  We were all excited to see, in person, these majestic animals that we had been reading about in books.  Parents read descriptions of the animals, the children were able to analyze the animals and their families in person.  They were able to see and feel the connection to something bigger and different than them.  How often do we get to take our children to Africa? To the bottom of the oceans?  To see the craters of the moon?  For some children, these experiences will never be a reality but by taking a trip to one of the amazing museums our city has to offer (and if you are a member of the library, you can get a free pass for you and your child), every child can experience the magic of learning.

Also, trips to the museum don’t have to include worksheets; we used worksheets to record our observations so that we could take them back to school and analyze the data further.  We were able to turn all of that data into graphs!  Even if you don’t have the time to make worksheets, bring some paper and pencils.  Let you child draw what they see, write down questions they have so that you can research it later at home, introduce them to math words, like bigger, smaller, compare, size, etc.  Remember, math is all around us!


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