Museums in the Classroom
Museum collections offer students a valuable opportunity to gain hands-on experience with specimens from around the world. These experiences are very immediate and tangible, allowing students to actively participate in the scientific process. Understanding biodiversity and the changes that are occurring in our environment requires opening museum drawers and looking inside. Students are able to do just this, allowing them to ask unlimited questions about the natural world.
While most students are impressed with the number of specimens that exist in a collection, very few understand that those specimens are a small part of a much larger web of data that are now available online. As a result of new efforts to digitize museum specimens, students have online access to digitized data and images never before available. This online resource opens up a whole new world for students, allowing them to easily ask and answer a number of important biological questions.
An Untapped Resource
Collections can be a valuable resource to students in a number of different ways. The challenge is exposing students and teachers to these resources for use in the classroom and individual research projects. Students are often aware of the public side of museums, but less aware of the massive collections that lie behind the scenes. Collections expose students to readily accessible data that can be used to ask and answer numerous scientific questions, including those addressing large temporal and spatial scales. Along with data access, students and classrooms have the opportunity to add context to labs and data, seeing first hand where the data comes from and receiving hands-on experience with specimens.
Learning Behind the Scenes
Having access to species from all over the world not only gives students an amazing resource for data, but also the chance to work with physical specimens. Working with actual specimens gives students a chance to learn proper identification, apply practices they’ve learned in the classroom or lab, and to add context to complicated biological, ecological, and evolutionary principles. Knowledge gained from a museum collection can be applied to a number of different disciplines, ranging from medical studies to studio art.
Other Classroom Applications
Museum collections can be valuable to a number of different classes and academic fields. One such example is studio art and collections. Graduate student Kaylen Jones explains just how these two fields combined, influencing her both her academic career and her art. Having access to mammal specimens in the collection has improved her artwork, providing a better understanding of mammal textures and structure. Thanks to being introduced by an art studio professor during a tour of the collection, Ms. Jones has future ambitions of being a scientific illustrator and continuing to bridge the gap between art and science.