This week 65 students from Emily Gray Middle School were busy exploring the exhibitions at Arizona State Museum. They were engaged with the exhibit content and discussing it with their friends. Often when schools come on self-guided visits to the museum the students run around wildly, seemingly without purpose. The students, and their chaperones, often text on their phones and chat about random things. Rarely do they really look hard and deep at the exhibit content and make personal connections.
What made the students from Emily Gray different? They were also using their phones and talking with their friends! But they were using their smartphones to scan QR code clues on a Museum Quest and discussing the clues with their friends to figure out answers. In one section, after listening to a story that illustrates the importance of rain to people who live in the desert, a Tohono O’odham student found the experience made her want to share more details about her culture with her non-Native peers. The students’ looking and talking was focused. They were able to construct meaning in the galleries and work independently to explore the museum.
When I spoke with their teachers to see how they thought the experience was, I received enthusiastic replies:
It was awesome! They were more intent on reading. It was an adventure. Very interactive. The QR code hunt reached them on a level that speaks to them.
It was great for the teamwork that came about. They were sharing and helping each other. There were kids actually reading to each other!
The youth also had fun teaching the teachers how to use their phones—how to turn on Wi-Fi and use the scanner app. Students told me they looked at more things, things they might not have looked at if they had just walked through without doing the Museum Quest. One boy stated he liked it because “I got to use some technology rather than reading on the wall, which is boring. Also, it’s easier to read than crowding around a wall text.” Overall the students felt it was fun. The teachers were pleased because their students were engaged and reading.
ASM’s education department offers a variety of materials to help focus student exploration at the museum. The Museum Quest was our first foray into using QR codes. Based on advice from this group, we may expand it adding more code clues for discovery. On our website are discovery hunts that don’t require smartphones—simply print them out and use the guides in the gallery. Available next fall for downloading will be a science field journal for 4th and 5th graders to explore environmental and cultural adaption by researching in the Paths of Life exhibit. For younger students we have a find and seek picture discovery hunt that can be borrowed from the Lobby Desk Attendant.
So come to the museum, and remember to bring your smartphone and a sense of adventure! Please also bring something to lean on and a pencil if you plan to write down your answers. I hope to see you soon in the gallery!
Parents: The Museum Quest and Discovery Hunts are not just for school groups. They’re a great way to for the family to enjoy exploring the museum together too! To prepare ahead of your visit, check out our Education Resources online.
Today’s blog post was written by Lisa Falk, Director of Education at the Arizona State Museum and this blog’s editor.