Use the Web to integrate real-world, interactive multimedia museum experiences into your curriculum
Integrating museum visits into K-12 curriculum has always been an interesting way to make learning come to life. Depending on your location, your district's classes could visit either local museums or national museums to boost their curriculum. But now you can take the maps, school buses and permission slips out of your next field trip.
Although museums have always provided invaluable opportunities to see genuine artifacts and learn about real-world research in science, mathematics, social studies and the arts, museums have changed dramatically in recent years. Almost every institution has moved beyond static displays to also offer interactive, hands-on exhibits where visitors can do such things as play different kinds of drums, experiment with light and lenses, and pick up live starfish. There has also been a growth in "living museums" (such as working farms using 18th-century implements), where visitors can talk with staff members wearing authentic costumes, who may even role-play what life was like in earlier eras. In addition, almost all museums now offer specific programs targeted to K-12 students and teachers. But still, these educational benefits have largely been limited to nearby schools.
However, thanks to the Web, the advantages of museum education can now be brought to schools wherever they are located, and interactive online multimedia exhibits and experiences are accessible to classrooms throughout the world (with the caveat that maximum benefits requires sufficient bandwidth). Most museums have their own Web sites, so almost any museum in the world can be "local."
FINDING MUSEUMS ON THE WEB
There are thousands of online museums that specialize in natural history, modern art, agriculture, immigration, paleontology, ocean exploration, the Holocaust and more. For example, the directory Hands-on Science Centers Worldwide, www.cs.cmu.edu/~mwm/sci.html, will identify interactive science museums throughout the United States and abroad. Similarly, you can use standard search engines such as Altavista, www.altavista.com, to look for "jazz museum" or "sports museum"--put phrases in quotes. If you simply search on the word "museum," several search engines will bring you to directories, such as Yahoo's Museums and Exhibits, dir.yahoo.com/ Society_and_Culture/Museums_and_Exhibits.
VISITING WEB MUSEUMS
The following are examples of major national and regional museums with interactive online educational resources. Some particular personal favorites are also included. To search for other museums, MuseumNetwork.com, is a useful guide to 33,000 museums worldwide.
American Art Museum www.nmaa.si.edu
Browse an online collection of more than 4,000 art images, an online photography center, and the Renwick Gallery of American crafts. The museum also offers a monthly "Director's Choice" art selection with audio narrative and related education tools for teachers and students.
American Museum of Natural History www.amnh.org
This site offers multimedia virtual tours with videos and 3-D images for exhibits on changing topics such as "Fighting Dinosaurs," "Tropical Butterflies" and "The Vikings." It also links to the Rose Center for Earth and Space, featuring the renovated Hayden Planetarium.
The Ellis Island Immigration Museum www.ellisisland.org/ellis.html
Between 1892 and 1954, 12 million immigrants were processed at New York's Ellis Island, and today more than 40 percent of all living Americans, including this author, trace their roots to such an ancestor. This site presents information about the museum, with links to learn more about its history and the Statue of Liberty.
The Exploratorium www.exploratorium.edu
The San Francisco-based Exploratorium offers more than 650 exhibits in science, art and human perception and is a leader in promoting museums as educational centers. …