Making the most of your excursion
Information for teachers about excursion organisation and maximising learning opportunities before, during and after a visit to the Museum.
Before your visit
Set the context and establish baseline knowledge
Integrating the Museum visit with a topic or unit of work provides students with a more effective learning experience because it provides them with a context. It is also important to determine the students' baseline knowledge of the topic by exploring their pre-existing concepts and knowledge. The students can then build on this baseline as the unit progresses.
The Museum's pre-visit activities are designed to set the context, share topic knowledge that students already have, and pre-teach any relevant concepts that students will need when they visit the Museum.
Discuss and record the objectives of the excursion
Research has shown that it is extremely important for students to understand the objectives and intended outcomes of a visit to the Museum. Objectives make the purpose of the excursion clear and assist the students to be more focused during their visit. The objectives may relate to knowledge, skills and/or attitudes and they may have a specific focus or contribute to a more complex outcome.
It is very important to organise the students into groups before they visit the Museum. Student groups are a useful teaching strategy to:
- minimise congestion around Museum displays - this is facilitated by sequentially rotating groups past displays of particular interest
- develop skills in teamwork.
We recommend five students or less per group. Each student can then be given responsibility for one or more of the following roles:
- leader - to organise and encourage the other group members
- reader - to read activity instructions and display information to the group
- scribe - to write down the group's responses to each activity
- spokesperson - to report the group's findings to the rest of the class
- navigator - to guide the group around the displays and the Museum
- photographer - to record interesting aspects of their excursion.
Familiarise students with museum settings
Research has shown that students who are unaccustomed to visiting museums spend less time focussing on the exhibitions because they are unfamiliar with the setting. For younger students, or those who have never been to a museum, it is important to consider the following issues in preparation for their visit.
What is a museum?
- A permanent institution open to the public.
- A place that collects and conserves many kinds of things.
- A place with objects and specimens that provide material evidence of people and their environments to help scientists research and understand the world we live in.
- A place with collections that visitors can study, learn about and enjoy.
What do you expect to find at a museum?
- The building may be historical and/or large and impressive.
- Exhibitions - these often contain displays of real objects and specimens but they may also include models, information and labels, computer interactives and hands-on exhibits.
- Visitor facilities - including a shop, café, toilets and information/admissions desk.
- People - including museum staff, and visitors such as students, families and tourists.
How old is the Australian Museum, why was it established and has it changed?
The Australian Museum is Australia's oldest museum. It was established in 1827 to preserve and display 'rare and curious specimens' of Australia's natural history. History of the Australian Museum.
Familiarise students with the Museum layout
Before the students visit the Museum, it is important that they are familiar with the Museum's layout and facilities. Research has shown that knowing the nature and exact location of facilities ensures that students will have a more informed and relaxed day. To ensure that everyone on the excursion is familiar with the Museum's layout, provide students and accompanying adults with a copy of the Museum guide map. You could also ask the students to:
- locate the exhibitions they will be visiting at the Museum
- locate some or all of the facilities listed on their maps (for example, the toilets)
- trace the shortest pathways between particular exhibitions or facilities
- practise giving one another instructions on how to get from one exhibition to another.
Timetable the Museum visit
Research has shown that when students know their excursion timetable, they feel more comfortable in the Museum's unfamiliar setting and spend more time focussing on the exhibitions and their own learning. Therefore, before your excursion, you should discuss with the students exactly what they will be doing, including:
- how they will get to the Museum
- what time they will leave school
- what time they will arrive at the Museum
- what exhibition(s) they will see
- how long they will spend in each exhibition
- what activities they will be expected to complete at the Museum
- when breaks for recess and lunch will occur
- the names of all teachers and other accompanying adults who will be present on the excursion
- what time they will leave the Museum
- what time they will arrive back at school.
We recommend that an excursion timetable be drawn up as an activity before you visit. The timetable below is provided as an example only. Ensure that all students and accompanying adults have a copy of the timetable.
Australian Museum Excursion Timetable Example
|Time||What we'll be doing||Where|
|8.15am||Leave school by bus/train||School|
|9.30am||Arrive at Museum, toilets||College Street, Sydney|
|9.45am||Cloak bags, briefing||Museum's Atrium, Level G|
|10.00am||Explore Surviving Australia exhibition||Level 2|
|11.00am||Fossils program with Museum educator||Science Studio, Level 2|
|12.00pm||Lunch break||Hyde Park or Museum if raining|
|1.00pm||Explore Dinosaurs exhibition||Level 2|
|2.00pm||Gather to return to school||Museum's Atrium, Level G|
|3.30pm||Arrive back at school||School|
At the Museum
When you arrive
A Museum staff member will be on hand to welcome you. They will:
- guide you to the admissions desk so you can present your Booking Confirmation form and pay.
- show the students where to store their bags.
- brief the students about how to move around the Museum. It is important that accompanying adults are present for this briefing.
- direct you to the areas of the Museum you intend to visit.
Ask a Museum staff member if there is anything else that you would like assistance with.
Aim to arrive approximately 10 minutes early so that you and the students have time for these preliminaries and to use the toilets if necessary, before commencing your booked Museum activities.
Students are welcome to bring cameras to record their excursion. There are some special exhibitions that do not allow photography and you will be informed about these in your arrival briefing.
Moving around the Museum
Teachers and accompanying adults are asked to stay with their groups at all times. To encourage adequate student supervision, the Museum allows supervising adults free entry at different ratios according to student level. One adult supervisor is admitted free for every:
- student with special needs
- 4 pre-school children
- 4 primary school students
- 10 secondary students
- 15 tertiary or English language students.
School groups are asked to use the stairs when moving from one level to the next, as the lifts are quite small. Please remember there are other visitors in the Museum, such as other schools, families and tourists and we ask that students please keep noise levels down and consider the impact of their behaviour on other Museum visitors.
Where to have lunch
We recommend that students eat their lunch in Hyde Park (just across the road). Re-entry to the Museum is free. During wet weather, special lunch areas within the Museum can be arranged - just check with the Museum staff member who greets you when you first arrive.
The Museum Diner is located near the College Street entrance on Level G and serves hot and cold food.
How to use the Museum's exhibitions
When your group first enters an exhibition allow time for an initial orientation period by allowing students a preliminary exploration of the whole exhibition. Later, when it is time to complete learning activities, the students will be less distracted if they have already seen the displays.
While the students are completing their investigations or activities, teachers are encouraged to:
- respond to students' queries
- direct students to particularly interesting or relevant displays
- make suggestions about how students can complete their activities
- suggest that students record difficult questions and differing views for further research or discussion back at school/college.
Post visit activities
Comparing new and old knowledge
When you return to the classroom, you could:
- ask each group to report on one activity they completed
- encourage the groups to comment on their findings and discuss any questions
- discuss how the information that students found during their visit differs from their expectations before the visit and focus on how their understandings have changed.
Reflecting on and using new knowledge
It is important that students reflect on and use the knowledge and understandings they have gained during their Museum visit and relate them to the unit of work they have been studying. Some options for consolidating student learning are to have students:
- report their answers to questions formulated during discussions and activities before they visited
- conduct further research or debate any issues that arise in discussions after their visit
- use their findings to write information reports or make a presentation
- collate the information gathered at the Museum into a class booklet
- make posters, models or displays.
Ms Helen Wheeler , Education Project Officer