The museum is such a great place to inspire learning, I think of them as ‘an enchanted classroom’. Even if the logistics of getting to a museum is difficult, there are often great resources available on their websites, catered primarily for teachers and school curriculums.
New Zealand Museums
While at teacher’s college, I naturally spent some time at Auckland’s War Memorial Museum. I have always remembered the wonderful exhibit on volcanoes on the first floor. From the scientific history of volcanoes to hearing about the human experiences, I felt the ground tremble. Fascinating and frightening, I left being reminded that volcanoes deserve respect. The Canterbury Museum offers a range of exhibits and programmes, from fossils, rocks and Antarctic exhibits being the most relevant to the Earth and Space Science curriculum. In co-ordination with Canterbury Museum there is also Quake City Exhibit located on Cashel Street in Christchurch. This museum is a unique multi media attraction aimed at engaging and educating visitors about Canterbury’s earthquakes. I’ve never been to a museum purely based on earthquake history. But this is Christchurch’s dramatic history since 2010. Well perhaps not so unique.
The entrance to the museum was greeted by Maori legends followed by the history of major earthquakes in New Zealand. From what is an earthquake and liquefaction, to the hero’s and emergency response team, the museum covered it all. The destruction and rebuilding of historic buildings was also recognised, notably Christchurch Cathedral and Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament (Christchurch Basilica).
I was to discover that the Canterbury region had experienced a range of earthquakes in the late 1800’s. In 1888 North Canterbury experienced an earthquake of magnitude 7.3, it actually toppled 40 feet of the Cathedral spire. Outside of living memory, earthquakes are back – it’s history repeating itself.
Natural History Museums
I have been fortunate to see some wonderful natural history museums around the world. The Natural History Museum in London and the American Museum of Natural History in New York are among my favourites. The Natural History Museum is beautiful with more than 80 million specimens to adore. From animal and dinosaur skeletons, fossils, gemstones, minerals and many other historic artworks and specimens that entertain the eye and mind. For natural history lovers, at least 300 scientists are based at the museum’s Darwin Centre, where visitors can watch them work in laboratories.
My memories of Frankfurt’s Natural History Museum, Senckenberg was artistic. With 10,000 exhibits there was plenty to view, although most of the information was written in German. Fortunately, diagrams and drawings enhanced the learning experience. I also enjoyed looking at a class of students drawing dinosaurs. Although it appeared to be an art class, it reminded me of the power of visualisation. Do students draw enough during science classes? It would certainly help some.
The American Museum of Natural History in New York is now offering a Masters degree designed specifically for Earth Science education. The Masters of Arts in Teaching is delivered in partnership with the Richard Gilder Graduate School. Over a period of 15 months, students learn science coursework in a world class natural history museum, working alongside scientists and teachers in an urban residency program. In response to a critical shortage of science teachers in the New York state, this partnership of education combines academic theory and learning specialising in Earth Science for grades 7 – 12. It’s incredible how education is becoming so diverse, but education needs to be marketable like any other business. This programme immensely appealed to me.